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Aug 19, 2009 3:08 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Math requirements will increase for Westhampton Beach High School students

Aug 19, 2009 3:08 PM

Incoming Westhampton Beach High School freshmen will have to take an additional year of math in order to graduate if the Westhampton Beach Board of Education approves the curriculum change next month.

During their meeting on Monday night, August 17, board members embraced changing the graduation requirements, but did not pass a resolution. Instead, they asked School Superintendent Lynn Schwartz and Westhampton Beach High School Principal Christopher Herr for more details on the sequence and availability of math classes.

A vote on a resolution will take place during the board’s September 14 meeting, said Mr. Schwartz.

“The board wants to make sure we have appropriate planning in place to meet the needs of all students,” he said.

The change, if adopted as planned, will affect students graduating in 2013.

Mr. Schwartz and Mr. Herr want to change the graduation requirements so high school students do not fall behind other students in their math studies.

“We want to continue to challenge students and keep them competitive,” Mr. Herr said.

If the policy is adopted, students will be able choose from five or six courses, like calculus, Advanced Placement statistics or applied mathematics, to fulfill the third-year requirement, Mr. Schwartz said.

All students in New York State must take nine regents exams, three of which must be in math, to receive an advanced regents diploma, Mr. Schwartz said. In Westhampton Beach, the algebra regents exams are taken in eighth grade, the geometry regents in ninth grade, and the final regents exam, algebra II and trigonometry, are taken in 10th grade. Last year, the 2008-09 school year, was the pilot year for that schedule.

There are a number of math electives offered in high school after the two regents courses are satisfied after sophomore year. Students, however, were not previously required to take them.

School Board members are in favor of the changes because they want Westhampton Beach students to exceed New York State regents requirements so they are “ready to compete” after high school, Mr. Schwartz said.

“We lost the commitment to math and science,” said School Board Vice President James Hulme. “We need to renew that commitment.”

Board members said they are concerned that the United States is lagging behind other countries in both math and science.

Fourth-graders in the United States rank 11th out of 36 countries in math scores, and eighth-graders rank ninth out of 48 countries in the same category, according to a 2007 Trends in International Math and Science Study. Hong Kong, China, Korea, Japan and Singapore all rank higher than the United States, according to the study.

“We are not going to get ahead of the Chinese by teaching kids applied math,” said Mr. Hulme, adding that school districts have to pay attention to courses so their students can be competitive. “We are going to get ahead of the Chinese by teaching our kids calculus.”

On Monday night, board members appeared to be in favor of adding an extra year of math to the district’s graduation requirements, starting with this year’s freshman class.

“We love the idea of an extra year of high school math,” said School Board President Aram Terchunian.

Board members also expressed concern over the proposed changes and the math course options now available to high school students. Halsey Stevens, a board member, asked if there would be alternatives for students who may qualify to take calculus, but may be “burned out.”

Other members were concerned that students who may not have done as well as other students in math would be forced to take a course that is too hard for them.

“Not everybody does calculus,” Mr. Terchunian said.

There are alternative courses, like applied math, that those students could take to satisfy the requirement, said Tom Short, the director of math, science and technology for the Westhampton Beach School District.

However, some board members were equally concerned that students who showed the ability to take challenging courses like calculus would opt into an easier course.

Algebra will always be available to students who need to take that course in the ninth grade, Mr. Short said. The East Moriches School District, which does not send its students to Westhampton Beach Middle School, is “on board” with teaching algebra to eighth-graders, Mr. Schwartz said.

Board members also mentioned adding an additional high school level science class to graduation requirements. No action was taken on that proposal Monday night.

Currently, high school students have to take two years of science. The board briefly flirted with the idea this week of increasing that requirement to three classes.

The board will likely revisit that idea during the 2011-12 school year, when earth science, which is usually taught in the ninth grade, is made an eighth-grade requirement, Mr. Schwartz said.

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Way to go ! ! !

Every student in high school can learn and master calculus, with the exception of a very small sliver of a tiny minority who will graduate with IEP diplomas.

Math is nothing more or less than commons sense. If the proper fundamentals of math are taught over the years, every high school student who is encouraged to be confident and work at it can learn even calculus.

Have students failed math in the past. Sure, but does this mean these students did ...more
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Aug 19, 09 2:38 PM
Ridiculous, The school district has already has a disaster with the class of 2013 by mandating integrated algebra in the 8th grade. Over 50% of the kids
failingat the end of the tird quarter. On the NYS regents only 30% correct answers out of a possible 100 would net each child a 72% grade and passing grade for the year. Thats a 42 point curve !!

The district is trying to run before it can walk. Why not try working with kids at thier pace and not someone elses.

Additionally, ...more
By Boardwatcher (7), westhamptom on Sep 8, 09 10:37 PM