Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Math Standards Adopted in Missouri Test Sets Bar High for Public School Students

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Math Standards Adopted in Missouri Test Sets Bar High for Public School Students

Article excerpt

Missouri's public school pupils have a lot of catching up to do before they are "proficient" in math - the state's goal for them.

The state Board of Education set standards Thursday for the math achievement tests that all fourth-, eighth- and 10th-graders in the state's public schools will take every year, beginning next year. And those standards are far beyond the math skills most pupils showed in a sample test last spring.

The board approved the recommendation of 120 teachers, legislators, parents and business people who met for four days last month, taking the test themselves and agreeing where to set the levels for pupils.

Education commissioner Robert E. Bartman said the board was "setting a standard that will challenge our students and challenge our teachers."

"Those people who say we're dumbing down the curriculum need to take the test," he said.

"We set some high standards," said LaVerne Dixon, a mathematics teacher at Carr Lane Visual and Performing Arts Middle School in St. Louis and one of the 120 who made the recommendation. "But I believe that the teachers in Missouri can do it, and I know the state's children can do it."

Her group decided first where to set five achievement levels for the test - advanced, proficient, nearing proficient, progressing and Step 1.

The group decided that proficiency would include adding fractions in fourth grade, reasoning inductively and deductively in eighth grade, making estimates and determining probability in 10th grade - and several other skills for each of those grades.

When the group finished setting the standards, it got to see the results of about 117,000 pupils statewide who took the test last spring in a dry run. On that test, 68.5 percent of fourth-graders were below proficiency. The older the pupils, the worse they did. In eighth grade, 87.7 percent were below par; in 10th grade, 88.2 percent.

"We were a little surprised - shocked," Dixon said.

Orlo Shroyer, assistant superintendent for instruction at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said at a press conference before the board meeting that the panelists did "a lot of soul-searching. The thing they didn't want to do was to lower the standard just to make things look good in Missouri. …

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