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Slight improvement in math scores far from good enough



Published: Mon, August 6, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Although Ohio students are performing slightly above the national average in mathematics, according to results released Friday in the Nation's Report Card: Mathematics 2000 by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, more than two-thirds of Ohio eighth graders and nearly three-quarters of fourth graders are still not proficient in math.

That cannot be seen as good news.

Despite the response from Dr. Susan Tave Zelman, Ohio's superintendent of public instruction, that & quot;This report shows that Ohio's long-term commitment to improving mathematics performance of our students is starting to pay off, & quot; her goal of being "one of the best educational systems in the nation by 2005 & quot; is far from close at hand.

The news for the nation is even worse. Considering that the Ohio fourth graders who took the test -- only 100 Ohio schools participated -- scored five points higher than the national average shows how many youngsters in the United States simply don't have mathematics proficiency.

In fact, only about one in four fourth and eight graders nationwide have a firm grasp of the material they should have learned at their grade levels. And the gap between white and Asian children one one hand and black and Latino children on the other continues to widen. While 34 percent of white fourth-graders demonstrated grade-level proficiency, only 5 percent of black fourth-graders and 10 percent of Latino fourth-graders did so.

Inner-city struggle: The results of the national test echo the situation in Ohio, where children in inner-city schools, particularly, are unable to gain proficiency in math as well as science.

Zelman believes that the mathematics model curriculum introduced in 1991, developed in collaboration with the Ohio Council of Teachers of Mathematics, has helped to align math curriculum statewide. But neither the new curriculum, new standards or professional development for teachers have led to significant improvement in the schools in need of the most help.

And the state's experiment with charter schools -- known in Ohio as community schools -- have been a multi-million educational disaster rather than the academic panacea supporters promised.

After the test results were announced, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige said & quot;Those students in the greatest need should receive greater resources and technical assistance and where that happens, you see progress being made. & quot;

Ohio's legislature, instead, is trying to spend the least amount possible on education and through the budgetary process is drastically cutting public support for higher education as well. We wonder if anyone has explained to the folks in the Statehouse where good teachers come from. They won't find them in a cabbage patch.




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