Thursday, September 02, 1999

College math hard for grads

Testing could help high schoolers prepare

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ERLANGER — Too many of Kentucky's high school graduates do not know enough math to take college-level classes, Education Commissioner Wilmer Cody said Wednesday.

        Taking upper-level math as high school seniors could help fix the problem, he said.

        Mr. Cody asked Northern Kentucky superintendents for ideas on improving math education and holding students accountable for their performance on state assessment tests.

        The state is already studying the results of a Northern Kentucky math competency program that tests high school juniors and tells them if they need to take more math to succeed in college.

        Roughly 40 percent of Kentucky college students take at least one remedial math class.

        “The bottom line is we have to figure out a way so that our college graduates understand more math than they do now,” Mr. Cody said. “We need to convince students they need to take advanced-level math their senior year to get them into college.”

        If Northern Kentucky's math competency program proves to have significant impact, it could become a statewide model, Mr. Cody said.

        The placement test is offered through Northern Kentucky University and Thomas More College. Students take a short exam that covers algebra, advanced algebra and geometry.

        Students then receive a report on their test scores, college math requirements for their major, and, if needed, a list of remedial courses and costs.

        Colleges can also help solve the problem by setting tougher enrollment policies, said Fred Bassett, Beechwood Schools superintendent.

        “If students know they have to take this to get into college, it will mean something,” Mr. Bassett said.

        A state committee, the P-16 Council, which looks at education issues from pre-school through college, will discuss math remediation next month.

        Recommendations from the P-16 Council and the Council on Post Secondary Education would then be forwarded to the state board of education.

        State educators will work this year to determine how to make students take the state's assessment exam seriously.

        Ideas include putting those scores on report cards and making them count toward the state's scholarship program, which awards students cash for college based on grade point averages and ACT scores.

        Mr. Cody said the state might also encourage employers to look at a students' scores, a practice that would parallel Northern Kentucky schools' efforts to get businesses to look at a student's transcript and attendance record before making hires.


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