Tuesday, December 12, 2000

By Nikki Merfeld

The Post-Bulletin (Rochester)

AUSTIN -- Austin High School has decided to abandon its Core Plus math program.

The Austin School Board on Monday approved a plan to eliminate the Core Plus curriculum for the second semester and begin immediately preparing students for the change.

The plan is required, said math teachers, because many students are failing or advancing with little understanding of the concepts.

The changes will affect 16 classes of about 28 students each, or about 450 students, said math teacher Wayne Olson, who presented the new plan to the board. That includes about one-third of the school's 1,200 students.

Students now are in one of two "Math Paths," said Olson. They are either in the Core Plus or the college track programs. The new plan has three paths: a four-year college track, a technical- college track, and a remedial track.

The four-year-college path will not change. The second path will be for students preparing for technical college and will teach many of the same topics as taught in the accelerated classes while allowing more time to learn them, Olson said.

The third path will be for students who have not passed their basic skills tests.

Overlap between the paths will allow students to progress from one path to another, Olson said. The plan would also expose every student to algebra.

"This would give our students, every student, the opportunity to take an algebra course, which we believe is recommended by the state," said Olson.

While course descriptions will be rewritten, Olson said, the plan reverts to courses the school had four years ago.

"It's a tried-and-true plan. It worked in the past. This was sort of a radical departure" from that plan, said Olson.

This is the third year the district has used the Core Plus curriculum.

Olson said he wasn't sure how many students are failing, but said, "We gave our students a diagnostic test and they were doing awful."

He said Core Plus is a backward approach to teaching math.

"You really need the skills before you attack a problem and they're trying to have students without the skills attack the problem and then learn the skills," said Olson.

Implementing the change will cost the district $12,000 in materials, said Olson.