Howland board discusses algebra

By Shelby Schroeder

Board members consider new educational requirements for 2014.

HOWLAND — School board members are seeking a way to comply with a 2014 state requirement without leaving students behind.

During a special work session Monday, board members met at the high school to discuss, among other objectives, how to help students challenged by new math requirements.

According to legislation called the Ohio Core, which was passed last year, high school students must pass both Algebra I and Algebra II courses by 2014.

The problem, board members said, is that current requirements allow students other course options to accommodate their math skill levels. For instance, if a student does not demonstrate proficiency in algebra, he or she may opt for an easier course.

“From a realistic view, we’re going to have a lot of problems if we stay where we’re at,” said board member Scott Lehman.

The question unanswered at this point is what Algebra II equivalent schools may offer to bypass the requirement, as allowed by the 2014 curriculum. The equivalents may allow students unable to pass an Algebra II class to still graduate, board members said.

Board member Paul Dieter suggested giving students in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades a leg up by offering them advanced math classes before middle school, potentially exposing them to the skills and knowledge to make algebra easier in the future.

Barbara Wright, another board member, agreed that teachers must stress math skills at an earlier grade level.

“Most [elementary] teachers are focused on language arts. They’re not going to do math with their extra time; they’re going to pull out a book of poetry.”

Board members also made suggestions to offer pre-algebra courses and tutoring.

Superintendent John Sheets said adjusting the curriculum to assure students will graduate will be a “tough task,” but Marie Thigpen, the administrative assistant to Sheets, clarified that currently Howland Schools are already in compliance with the 2014 deadline in their course offerings.

The Algebra II requirement comes along with the stipulation that students must take four math classes, instead of the three now required.

Also during the meeting, the board discussed the need for more students in the district to enroll in Advanced Placement, or AP classes.

Members said students were deterred from AP courses because of the level of difficulty and the amount of extra work involved. Members said if students complete the courses, however, they typically yield higher scores in the Scholastic Aptitude Test — known as the SATs — and the American College Testing program, or ACTs.

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