Some school systems invested millions of dollars in the new and soon-to-be-optional integrated math curriculum for high schools, a survey of metro districts by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution showed.
Gwinnett, the state’s largest school system, spent nearly $3.5 million to implement the three-in-one math classes that frustrated parents and students across the state and have been linked by some to a statewide nose dive in test scores.
Atlanta Public Schools spent more than $1.5 million to support integrated math in its high schools over the past three years, system spokesman Keith Bromery said.
Cherokee County said it invested $1.2 million for textbooks and teacher training.
New high school math textbooks cost Clayton County $883,066. Clayton also spent or has committed $3 million to train teachers on the curriculum “due to our concentrated focus on elevating student achievement in the area of mathematics,” spokesman Charles White said.
In addition, the system has a request in the pipeline for $232,000 to purchase textbooks for Math 4, the highest level of integrated math, White said.
But does that book order still need to be filled?
John Barge, Georgia’s new state school superintendent, has recommended the state Board of Education essentially rescind a policy that required school districts to implement the integrated math curriculum, starting with teacher training for sixth grades in 2004-2005.
Returning to the traditional model of teaching won’t mean that student learning is compromised, Barge has said, since the same rigorous standards will be in place.
He is proposing that districts have three options: keep the integrated math; return to the more traditional delivery of one subject at a time; or allow a combination of both.
A vote by the state school board next month could set that in motion with three new, more traditional Georgia Performance Standards courses — GPS Algebra, GPS Geometry and GPS Advanced.
State lawmakers were threatening to intervene after getting an earful from parents, particularly after 80,000 students statewide failed their final exams in integrated math last spring.
“Trust me, you don’t want them setting the curriculum,” Barge told a group of educators earlier this month.
Most school boards surveyed are monitoring developments at the state level before taking action themselves.
DeKalb is an exception. Board members there are “on the verge” of deciding to return to the traditional math, spokesman Walter Woods said.
The system recently polled teachers and staff and found that was the sentiment of the majority, Woods said.
Integrated math was not a significant expense for DeKalb schools, he said. “We taught integrated math out of the old textbooks.”
In Cobb County, the school system was due to adopt new textbooks at the time staff was introducing the new math, spokesman Jay Dillon said.
“So we would have been buying new textbooks anyway,” he said.
He said the same was true with training.
“We did not do any more training, or hire anyone new to conduct training, just because of the new math program,” Dillon said. “We just re-tailored the training that would have been done anyway.”
In Fulton County, the school board voted in 2008 to use more traditional methods for teaching the state’s revised and tougher curriculum.
Lynn Ridgeway, math coordinator in Fayette County Schools, said the local school board funded three full days of training for every teacher at each grade level at a cost of $237,680.
In addition, the system added an extra math teacher at each high school to help with the math support courses, Ridgeway said. But that was done without any extra costs by cutting the teacher allotment in another area at the high school, she said.
At the state level, officials said they did not keep track of the specific expenses related to integrated math, though they attribute most of a nearly $1 million spike in training costs in 2008 to the launching of the new math in high schools.
Janet Reed, the mother of two high school students and a member of the Cherokee school board, said, “I have heard from lots of parents who say they are unhappy with the new math.”
Parents wonder how it will be received by college admissions offices, Reed said.
“Will they know what Math 1, Math 2 and Math 3 are?” she said. “The parents I have heard from say we need to revert back to the old. They understand it’s not going to be immediate.”
Kathy Cox, the state school superintendent when integrated math was put in place, said the new curriculum could keep Georgia students from having to take remedial courses in college and raise state SAT scores.
In an e-mail response to an inquiry from the AJC last week, Cox, who resigned last year, said the fundamental question remains the same.
“Are these the right standards for our students to learn so that they can be competitive in a 21st-century economy? And the answer is yes — the same answer that was given in 2005 when the state board unanimously approved the new standards for high school,” Cox said.
Cox added she has “no reason to believe that Georgia students should not be able to master these standards just like the students in Singapore and Japan have.”
OPTIONS ON THE TABLE
John Barge, Georgia’s new state school superintendent, calls for rescinding the requirement to teach integrated math curriculum and is proposing three options for districts: