HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) – Coming in last in the nation in math education doesn’t sit well with Alabama lawmakers.
That’s why Senator Arthur Orr is sponsoring a bill to improve student performance.
Only six of Alabama’s 143 school districts have more than half of their students proficient in math, according to Senator Arthur Orr.
“We are literally failing our children in this regard. A third of our school systems, only 10 percent of our kids in grades four through eight are proficient in math,” Senator Orr said.
And those numbers are the driving force behind the Numeracy Act.
Bill has high hopes, Michelle Cunningham, eighth-grade Morris Middle School math teacher.
“When I have an eighth grader who can’t multiply without doing a calculator, and he’s always counting on his fingers, then how is he able to square, cube. How are they able to do 45 times 45. Don’t put a decimal in there because oh my God,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham, who has been teaching math for more than a decade, says she sees a lot of students coming into her class who aren’t at the level they should be.
“Without the foundation, we’re really going to be lacking in a society that deals with numbers every day,” she explained.
Building that solid foundation from the start is what the Numeracy Act aims to accomplish.
“It requires hiring hundreds and hundreds of math coaches to support our educators in the classroom, to help them, to train them, to show them the latest techniques,” Senator Orr said.
Senator Orr says math coaches would target low-performing schools first.
The law also calls for a review of the math skills prospective teachers learn in Alabama’s public colleges.
“Primary teachers were not sufficiently prepared to teach mathematics. And we found out with the Literacy Act that they were teaching the way their teachers were educating people in the 80s,” he said.
These plans will come at a steep price.
Senator Orr says overtime will end up costing about $90 million, but he says the state has money to spend.
He says the state would also hire a third-party company to review the schools’ progress and report to the state.
“We don’t need to keep pumping money into education without demanding accountability,” Orr said.
Orr says state teachers helped draft the bill.
If successful, it will take years for it to take full effect, but coaches could be in kindergarten and first grade classrooms by fall 2023.
Once complete, the math coaches will go to Alabama public schools and help K-5 teachers.
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