States Embark On New Math Initiative

Fourteen states are joining forces to combat the poor showing of U.S. students on international math tests. Governors, businessmen and the College Board, a nonprofit organization that offers demanding college prep courses, will collaborate on a mathematics curriculum and formulate a test that will be given in at least ten states in the 2002-2003 school year.

"The stakes are huge. The critical key to American competition in the 21st century is our ability to improve mathematics and science in the K-12 years," said founding member Gov. John Engler of Michigan (R).

In 1999, the founding ten states involved in the initiative and Achieve Inc., a bi-partisan nonprofit group of governors and corporate heads, came together to find a way to assess student performance and compare it across states. They formed the Mathematics Achievement Partnership (MAP), and with the help of the College Board,came up with a model program that closely resembles the Advanced Placement program.

The partnership plans to publish a textbook guide for schools and may produce supplementary math materials. Teachers will participate in a comprehensive professional development program to bring them up to speed on the curriculum.

The MAP program will culminate in a rigorous 8th grade math test competitive with international standards that will also allow comparisons on the state, school district and individual student levels.

The Bush administration would require states to test in grades 3-8. This would force states to create 260 new tests in reading and math, according to Achieve Inc. The National Association of School Boards of Education (NASBE) predicts it could cost states up to $7 billion to develop and administer these tests.

Superintendent of Los Angeles Schools Roy Romer, a Democrat and former Governor of Colorado, says it makes no sense for each state to use its own test."States will be saving money by working together and learning from each other - and not trying to reinvent the wheel."

The partnership has access to top notch test developers and has grants from the Pew Charitable Trusts (which also funds Stateline.org) and Agilent Technologies, a high tech firm, to help offset the expected $6 million cost for creating the 8th grade mathematics test. MAP has not estimated how much it will cost states to administer this test.

The founding states are Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin. California, Georgia, Ohio and Oregon have since joined MAP.

Tags: Education