Results from recent standardized testing across Vermont found that 65% of 3rd to 8th grade students and only 36% of 11th graders were proficient in Math. In response to these findings, the Shumlin administration through the VT Education Commissioner Armando Vilaseca (who is now responsible to the Governor) are proposing tougher high-school graduation requirements starting with the class of 2017.
Read more on this story posted on March 19, 2012 by our colleagues at the Burlington Free Press.
ESSEX JUNCTION — Rachael Bambara is an 18-year-old Essex High School senior who aspires to a career in art. Math, she says, is not her strong suit.
Even so, she pushed herself through algebra I, geometry and in her junior year, algebra II, which she passed only after enlisting help from a private tutor. Bambara kept slogging away partly because she was advised that college admissions officers want to see students complete at least algebra II in high school.
“I wanted it to look good for college,” she said.
Essex High School is one of the top-scoring schools in the state when it comes to math — the school tied for third place on the most recent round of New England Common Assessment Program tests — but even at Essex there are students who struggle to get through algebra II, or never manage to do so.
What if everyone had to complete algebra II to graduate?
“I think there would be a lot more kids going to tutors,” Bambara said.
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin and Vermont Education Commissioner Armando Vilaseca are proposing stiffer high-school graduation requirements that could make passing algebra II a requirement for a diploma starting with the Class of 2017.
They also are proposing to mandate algebra I for ninth graders and geometry for 10th graders starting this fall, the idea being that completing core math courses early in high school would allow students to get through higher-level math such as calculus by senior year. The Vermont State Board of Education is expected to consider the proposals this month.
Vermont graduation standards currently mandate at least three years of math but don’t specify which courses a student must take. The new proposals come in the wake of persistently weak math scores on Vermont’s mandatory state assessment, the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP.) Only 36 percent of Vermont 11th graders scored proficient or better on the 2011 math test, up slightly from 30 percent in 2007 but well below what state officials want to see.
Shumlin and Vilaseca’s proposals are designed to do more than boost scores. They are intended to position Vermont students better to pursue careers in lucrative science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields and in the process help seed job growth in Vermont.