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Georgia high school students lagging in math

Photo by Jeylin White                               
Jonesboro Middle school sixth grader Leeanna Threats (left), Mount Zion High School freshman students, Imari Threats and Joshua Simmons, catch up on some summer reading at the Clayton County Headquarters Library, on Battle Creek Road, in Jonesboro.

Photo by Jeylin White Jonesboro Middle school sixth grader Leeanna Threats (left), Mount Zion High School freshman students, Imari Threats and Joshua Simmons, catch up on some summer reading at the Clayton County Headquarters Library, on Battle Creek Road, in Jonesboro.

JONESBORO — Learning the ins and outs of math is not a daunting task for Mount Zion High School students Joshua Simmons and Imari Threats. “Personally math is my favorite subject,” said Simmons, a sentiment echoed by Threats.

However, when the moment came for the 15-year-olds to take the Georgia End-of-Course Tests (EOCT), both said they drew a blank on a few of the math questions.

“There was a lot of math that [my teachers] were teaching this year, that I was just all confused about,” said Threats. “I had a hard time learning slopes and graphs and there were a lot of questions about that on the EOCT.”

According to a recent report released by the Georgia Department of Education, students across the state struggled in mathematics 2 on the 2012 EOCT, a minuscule decrease of 1 percent from the previous year.

Simmons said he believes the math struggles have a lot to do with the way educators are teaching.

“Most times teachers are not thinking about how the student learns,” he said. “They probably should ask the student how they learn. Like, do you learn by hands-on, by visual or hearing? Most teachers just give the work and think students are going to get it.”

Threats agreed. “All students don’t learn the same,” she said. “It may take some students a longer time to get what the lesson is about. For me, I’m a slow learner but if it’s something I understand I will pick it up fast.”

DOE spokesman Matt Cardoza said the purpose of the EOCT is to assess how students are doing on the Georgia Performance Standards in core courses and to provide data to assist in the improvement of instruction and learning.

While Georgia’s high school students may need some improvement in math 2, the reports also indicated students made gains in U.S. history, economics, biology, physical science, ninth grade literature, American literature, and mathematics I.

Some of the highlights taken directly from the 2012 EOCT report show favorable comparisons to the 2011 test:

• 68 percent of Georgia’s students met or exceeded the standard for U.S. history, an increase of two-percentage points when compared to spring 2011;

• 77 percent of Georgia’s students met or exceeded the standard for economics/business/free enterprise, an increase of 5 percentage points;

• 73 percent of Georgia’s students met or exceeded the standard for biology, an increase of 3 percentage points;

• 77 percent of Georgia’s students met or exceeded the standard for physical science, an increase of 1 percentage point;

• 84 percent of Georgia’s students met or exceeded the standard for ninth-grade literature and composition, an increase of 2 percentage points;

• 89 percent of Georgia’s students met or exceeded the standard for American literature and composition an increase of 1 percentage point;

• 65 percent of Georgia’s students met or exceeded the standard for mathematics I, an increase of 4 percentage points;

• 54 percent of Georgia’s students met or exceeded the standard for mathematics II, a decrease of 1 percentage point;

• 63 percent of Georgia’s students met or exceeded the standard for GPS algebra and 74 percent met or exceeded the standard for GPS geometry. These tests are new, therefore there’s nothing to compare the scores against.

A Clayton County Public School middle school teacher, who asked not to be identified, said there needs to be early intervention with students, in which the whole community should be responsible. “Everyone just wants to blame the teachers,” said the middle school teacher. “Education should also start at home with parents doing their due diligence with making sure students are learning.” The educator said most students are at least two grade levels behind in math. “Math is like a building block,” said the teacher. “If you don’t know the earlier concepts of math then [a student] is going to struggle.”

Threats said she thinks there needs to be more refresher courses on math through out the year. “You know we learn information so early in the year and by the time it comes to take the [EOCT] test we forgot everything we learned,” she said.

Clayton County Board of Education member Jessie Goree said teachers are not prepared to teach algebra, geometry, trigonometry and analysis together, rather than separating them in different courses.

Being a former math teacher, herself, Goree said this is why most high school students are struggling in math and failing to meet the EOCT requirement. “Until our teachers are comfortable with teaching the new method are students are not going to do well on these [standardized tests],” said Goree.

For more information about the Georgia End-of-Course Tests results, visit www.gadoe.org.