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Despite pleas from parents, high school students, traditional math stays out

The Fayette County Board of Education on April 19 took up the issue of continuing with the school system’s high school integrated math curriculum endorsed by the state or returning to the traditional math curriculum. The board after the discussion voted 3-2 to keep the integrated curriculum. Students needing assistance can receive that help during the instructional focus period, officials said.

School system mathematics Coordinator Lynn Ridgeway at a previous meeting had advocated for keeping the integrated curriculum, noting that it had been supported at the state level and adding that to run both the integrated and traditional systems simultaneously would be difficult to support.

“We believe that our students should continue to have the opportunity to learn content in both geometry and data analysis and statistics while they are learning algebra,” Ridgeway said in an April 1 memo in support of continuing the integrated approach rather than going back to the long-held approach of teaching one math subject followed by another. “They should continue to see mathematics as an integrated whole, with connections across the content domains, that will prepare them to thrive in a rapidly changing technological global economy.”

Superintendent Jeff Bearden acted on staff suggestions and made his recommendation that the school system keep the integrated curriculum.

Board member Marion Key advocated for providing both integrated and traditional math approaches. She noted that the integrated math curriculum is good for accelerated students but not for all students. Illustrating that position, Key read from a list of comments by teachers and parents who believe that students and parents should be given the option of choosing which curriculum best meets students’ needs.

The list cited issues with the integrated curriculum such as memorizing math does not lead to higher order thinking skills, the curriculum goes too fast and students do not have sufficient time to learn it well, even good math students are not doing well in this course and math tutorial businesses are doing a booming business due to the integrated curriculum.

“This is not the teacher’s fault. Teachers go well beyond,” Key said in proposing that both systems be taught. “I’ve just heard too many complaints. Some students are memorizing but not learning the concepts.”

Chairman Bob Todd said he, too, wanted parents and students to have the option of either integrated or traditional approaches to math.

Board member Janet Smola during the discussion advocated for going with the staff suggestion, adding that Key’s concern could be resolved by having math support addressed during the high school instruction focus period.

The vote to keep the integrated curriculum was 3-2, with Smola and board members Terri Smith and Sam Tolbert in favor and Key and Todd opposed.

Todd prior to the vote said that he would liked to have seen parents provide their perspective to the board rather than only hearing the position of school system staff.



It seems that school boards all over the state are grappling with the "integrated math" curriculum question.

From what I understand, "integrated math" was to be the shining signature issue of former state school superintendent Kathy Cox. The state spent millions of dollars creating and formulating the "perfect" curriculum, and then committed the cardinal sin in project management of failing to "teach the teachers" in this new method.

As a result, the "integrated math" project has largely fallen flat on its face. Teachers resented having little to no training in "integrated math" and the lack of support materials is troubling.

I'm not sure if "dual curriculums" are the way to go, the state is obviously moving towards one math standard. This may be one of the rare instances where I'll side with Smola and Smith over Key and Todd. I feel so....dirty.

All you have to do is google Integrated Math and you can find a lot of information about how it is not working in other states. Some of the problems cited are that instruction is too broad and students never really learn anything before moving on to other concepts. I have witnessed that myself with my son. His grades are ok, but I don't really think he has as good of an understanding of the material as he should. They really should offer both curriculums, or do away with integrated math altogether.

Combining algebra, geometry, and calculus into one book for one year and only teach part of it each year is due to kids taking more math in middle school than they used to do.

Not too many years ago if you weren't going to college, first year algebra was all that was required in high school. Many did not see the need for the discipline math requires if you weren't going to college.

It also made it easier to graduate.

Smart teachers and also smart parents to help are required for Integrated math!

The influx of minorities into high school (they used to all quit at 15 or so) has required a lot of leveling without them learning much!

It doesn't come cheap these days as teachers want above average wages and benefits---especially benefits. Some don't belong in teaching such courses. The highly paid administrators don't help solve the problem either by not "firing" many.

The answer is known but we aren't willing to change it quickly, or ever.

[quote]The state spent millions of dollars creating and formulating the "perfect" curriculum, and then committed the cardinal sin in project management of failing to "teach the teachers" in this new method.[/quote]


as a teacher in this county, i can say that we have seen this math train wreck coming for about 5 years now. The only advantage here is that now we only teach 5 or 6 math classes in high school instead of the twenty or so it used to be. The disadvantages are obvious. Not every kid in high school should have to take calculus to graduate. But that is what this "integrated" (translation: one size fits all) math system is doing. Heck, not even every college student takes calculus. And because of no child left behind, even the special ed. students are on this same track. its rediculous. Anyone who thinks treating every high schooler in the state exactly the same way is a good idea has obviously never spent 30 seconds as a teacher. Well, perhaps I should say "effective" teacher. They dont all want or need the same thing. The state knows it made a mistake with this too, otherwise they wouldnt have relaxed grad requirements in math. So many kids were failing math one and two that they had to take remidial "support" courses in addition to repeating the failed class. So now, not only are the kids who failed math last year forced to take two math classes simultaneously the next year, there wasnt enough time to take all four math classes in 4 years. So they had to say that the support classes count as a math credit just so they would graduate on time. so the kids arent really following the curriculum if they fail anyway. So whats the point? well, thats my two cents.

secret squirrel's picture

You're a teacher? I'm not sure that's very believable. Look at the misspellings, punctuation errors, and poor grammar. Besides, the dumbing down of Georgia's high school graduates is moving into public colleges when you chose not to educate them. You're right- many college students aren't required to take calculus but that's not because they shouldn't or don't need it. It's because they can't.

How typical of someone who cant argue with facts to point out that I had a few grammar and spelling errors and start in with the ad hominem attacks. Talk about focusing on the wrong part of the story. Do you really think that someone who is getting a degree in lierature, history or journalisim needs to take calculus? Or are you seriously suggesting that everyone with a liberal arts degree is a worthless idiot who "can't" take calculus. Or are those degrees simply not worthy of someone such as yourself?

Just verified my belief that education reform must begin with better qualified teachers. The 'integrated math curriculum' for elementary students is not a one size fits all program - but requires a well-trained teacher.

zoes's picture

Then I won't correct the spelling errors in your post. You can do it.

(how embarrassing)


"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye." Miss Piggy

I'd be more embarrassed to have the world know I was the kind of person who only looked at mistakes people made so I could point them out and let everyone know how smart I am, instead of being the kind of person who actually listens to what people have to say and looking at the merits of their argument, regardless of how well they spell. Based on your post, guess which kind of person the world would think you are?

mudcat's picture

This forum is more friendly to the zoes of the world. Sometimes opinionated and strident, never in doubt, frequently wrong and above all - always immature. This is fresh water to people like us - errr, I mean her.

You want enlightened ideas, subscribe to the New York Times. It must be worth something since they make you pay for it. Right? Need I point out that The Citizen and these blogs are free?

Skipping from topic to topic in math--"spiraling" they used to call it--instead of presenting the branches of mathematics sequentially is another failed brainstorm from the same people who think "Education" is the title of a graduate-level university discipline. Not surprisingly, it leaves the kids baffled and the for-profit tutorial services richer. I thank God I can afford to send my child to a private high school instead of the supposedly first-rate public schools my local taxes are funding.

I notice how quickly people are to point out my spelling and grammar mistakes which, given the fact that I am a teacher, is a little funny. But I also notice that you really didnt have a whole lot to say about the substance of my story. Um, NEWS FLASH! This is a comments forum, not a doctoral thesis! Who cares about a spelling mistake?!?! Aren't the opinions people have the whole reason you read this anyway? What does grammar have to do with that? You can think I'm a bad teacher for some spelling mistakes all you want, but if all you did was listen to kids to try and point out their mistakes instead of listening to what they had to say, I know for a fact that YOU would make terrible teachers. Fo Sho!


They pay teachers poorly, but expect them to be perfect. Most people don't have a clue as to the substance of the math curriculum. Please continue to share your opinion. I'm going to look at the proposed curriculum. Teaching the basic facts will always be a must in math education. However, being able to think logically is tantamount in today's world and the so-called higher order math subjects teach this. The concepts taught in 'calculus ' can be taught under any given label. Well trained teachers can do this in a 'shop' class. Elitists have made higher order thinking skills
into some kind of mystery. Before we start turning out textbooks - we must develop a math program that has the input of today's pilots, engineers, computer scientists, programmers, inventors, teachers. They know how to use numbers to solve problems. Thanks for sharing.

These board members are depending on kids to get extra help during "instructional focus" time. However, this same school board micro-managed "instructional focus" right out of Whitewater High School. Let me clarify. The schedule and school start time were set up at the beginning of the school year to allow for 20 minutes of instructional focus. There were some snags in starting the school day so early - bus, traffic and interference with neighboring schools' start times, etc. So this school board, in the absence in a superintendent, went nuts. They called a bunch of meetings, wanted reports of how the time was to be used, told Whitewater it had to go back to the old start time, and micro-managed the whole thing so that Whitewater threw up its collective hands and went back to the status quo.

I honestly can't say if "instructional focus" is good or bad. I'm sure the logistical problems needed to be addressed. But I think it's hilarious that this same school board thinks "instructional focus" is the answer to the math problem.

While I'm at it I'll say that if my child was involved in this spiral math thing I'd have him in private school. It's an experiment gone wrong the same as "looping" and "shadowing" (12 years ago these were kindergarten/1st grade experiments)and "open classrooms" (back in the 70s) were. Why must educators try all this experimental stuff on our kids?

When you see the GHSGT failure list (broken down by test and school) you make think otherwise of instructional focus.

The new math? I was a "doubter" at first, but I have to say that I've seen a lot of kids that previously would have been on the vo-tech diploma track (easy math) step-up and be successful. Their rewards includes better math SAT scores and better preparation for college. There always will exist that population whose cognitive ability is such that they will struggle immensely with the new math, but they would have struggled immensely with the vo-tech math, too. Said population does need another option and hopefully someone will figure out something for them. As for the other students (juniors throughout the county), they are hard workers and have proven themselves. The new math curriculum is definitely not for slackers. Slack kids (and parents) will not be successful.

suggarfoot's picture

kids will pay for these bad grades in this ...again...when they try to get into college...

the gift that just keeps on giving. ...stupidity of some on our schoolboard.

quite frankly ...Fayette county schools are a big dissapointment.

That is the real reason the school population keeps going down...while Coweta's is going up?..hello??? anyone care? This system is a broken promise to over taxed parents. People are pulling their kids out because of the routy out of county kids...and this BS math...

Why keep your kids in a failing system.

suggarfoot's picture

sickening. I'm ashamed I voted for him.

That math is BS and everyone knows it. My kid always scored good on SATs but struggled with that math. It is a step backwards.

As for making them do better? Mine scored good ..before.. being exposed to that crap and then wound up with Ds and Cs it that mess.

It teaches the kids NOTHING that causes them todo good on the SAT..nothing..

and further I might add..having them struggle with it...let me just tell you the hard facts...

An A from Clayton county counts just as good as an A from Fayette county when applying for college. Yep, it sure does... hate to dissapoint you.

When my kid had bad grades in math, I mentioned he went to Fayette county schools which were harder... at least 4 universities almost laughed me off the phone.

Smola may peddle that this is doing you kid a favor...she is totally ignorant. Tolber, again, I'm surprised and ashamed...I voted for him. But hey, he is the one that voted on this he should be ashamed...right?

suggarfoot's picture

Aside from the fact that Smola never graduated from college and Smith taught 2 or 3 years...AND..the developers wife and the college drop out..are the Mothers (yep that is the right word in this contex) of the empty schools for the developers. ...they don't know what they are doing!They voted to keep this math when other schools see it is hurting the's that for their smarts?


The number of Georgia students who flunked this year's high school graduation test rose by 7 percentage points -- a change blamed on the often-criticized integrated math curriculum that some school systems are now shelving.

Current high school juniors have been taught integrated math since 2006. But this is the first year that the Georgia High School Graduation Test evaluated them on how well they grasped learning algebra, geometry and statistics in a single course.

Statewide, 14,875 students of about 93,000 first-time test-takers -- or 16 percent -- couldn't pass math this year, results released Thursday show.

That compares with a 9 percent failure rate last year, when the math portion of the five-part graduation test was based on a less-rigorous curriculum known as Quality Core. It also goes against a slight improvement this year in the passing rates for the English/language arts, social studies and science portions of the test.

Results of the writing portion of the test will be released later, as will data on how students did in each school district and at each school.

State Superintendent John Barge said Thursday that he had expected a drop in math results.

“We expected a decline in results for the math portion of the GHSGT,” Barge said, “but based on feedback from school districts, we anticipated a more dramatic decline.”

Shortly after he took office in January, Barge began pushing to give the state's 180 school districts the option of teaching integrated math or returning to a more traditional method of teaching students math one discipline at a time.

The state Board of Education voted in March to follow his recommendation. Had it not, some legislators were threatening to take action of their own, saying that they had long been barraged with complaints about parents having to hire private tutors and students failing by the thousands.

"A one-size-fits-all approach is not in the best interest of all of our students, but high
expectations and our rigorous curriculum are right for them all," Barge said.

In Cobb County, officials said they've already gotten word that their math passing rate dropped 1 percentage point to 93 percent this year.

Michelle Mikes, a former math teacher who is now the 6-12 math supervisor for Cobb County schools, said Thursday that she believes local students outperformed most of the state on the math test due to "the dedication and determination of our teachers."

"They go above and beyond," providing extra help to students before and after school and on Saturdays, Mikes said.

They also have been well trained and do regular assessments so they know early whether a student is running into trouble, she said.

Statewide, Mikes said, she believes the issue is the rigor of the classwork more than the integration of the different math concepts.

The prior high school graduation math test was evaluating students on what's now being taught in the middle schools, she said.

"We're expecting a lot more out of the students," Mikes said.

Debbie Poss, a math teacher at Cobb's Lassiter High School and president of the Georgia Council of Teachers of Mathematics, said test results should improve as students and teachers become more familiar with the state's more rigorous math curriculum.

"We celebrate all students who have learned more and understand more mathematics than they would have under the QCC, regardless of their performance on this high-stakes test," Poss said, referring to the Quality Core Curriculum.

On the other portions of this year's graduation test, passing rates were up slightly statewide. They rose from 90 percent to 91 percent on English/language arts, 90 percent to 93 percent on science and 78 percent to 80 percent on social studies.

This is the last year that students have to pass the test to receive a full diploma.

Starting next year, all students but incoming freshmen will have the option of taking the graduation test or the equivalent End-of-Course Tests. Freshmen will be taking End-of-Course Tests that are increasing in weight.

Students currently take the graduation test for the first time in the spring of their junior year. Those who fail can retake one or more parts as many times as needed.

Statewide results of 2011 Georgia High School Graduation Test

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