Governor offers option to math WASL

Some Mount Si High School students may have to take additional math classes if new legislation proposed by Gov. Chris Gregoire and Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Terry Bergeson is approved by the Washington State Legislature next year.

According to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the legislation proposes that students who have not passed the math portion of the WASL be allowed to choose an alternate route by continuing to take math courses until they either pass the test or graduate. If approved, the option would be in place for the graduating classes of 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Providing additional math classes at Mount Si to students who might not otherwise take them would require more staff at the high school, said Gayle Smith, math department chair. There is also a possibility that the number of students enrolled in the program would increase because students would remain in math classes longer, Smith said.

"In terms of individual students, I don't know that there would be a significant change other than that it would relieve the anxiety about passing the WASL because it would provide an alternative," Smith said.

Recently, Mount Si has been a step ahead of the state as far as monitoring student progress. If a student does not pass the math portion of the WASL in April or the retake in August, the high school already suggests that students continue to take more math classes during their junior year to prepare for the retakes. In addition, students planning to attend college after high school are enrolled in further math classes whether or not they passed the WASL, she said. Although both the state and Mount Si only require two math courses to graduate, most colleges - including Washington State and the University of Washington - require at least three math courses, Smith said. But even the extra course doesn't fully prepare many students for college.

"That's been shown in the research based on the preparation [for college]." Smith said. "When students enter college, they're not prepared to take college-level courses. Many end up in remedial courses."

If students took higher level courses in high school, they would be better prepared for college, Smith said. She is not suggesting that all students need to take calculus, however.

"As a country, we are not very tolerant in terms of hiring or progression, or people who are illiterate," Smith said. "But it seems to be OK to be innumerate [unable to do math well]. People are more understanding about students who struggle with math. The state's objective is to change that attitude."

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