State Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Gifford, introduced
3244, which would require students to take four years of math,
instead of the current three, to meet graduation requirements.
However, state Sen. David Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, said at a
recent Senate Education Committee hearing that he doesn't want to
see students set up to fail.
"Not every kid can do upper level math and be successful," said
the veteran educator with more than 30 years of experience.
"Employers don't necessarily want someone who can do calculus. They
want someone who can do basic skills of math."
The business community echoed Luechtefeld's concerns, saying they
want employees who can add and subtract, multiply and divide.
Educators said another year of math would create a financial burden
for the school districts.
In response, Frerichs said he is working on amending the bill so
that courses such as drafting and wood shop could meet the proposed
"I know some of the people have some concerns. They just want to
have greater clarity of what counts," Frerichs said. "So would a
statistics class count for math? In my mind, yes. Would a drafting
class that had a high degree of fractions involved, would that be
something that we need to work on?"
High schoolers must complete one yearlong course in algebra and
another yearlong course with content that addresses geometry. Local
school districts determine the course content. For example, a school
may offer Algebra I over a two-year period, according to the
graduation requirements set by the Illinois State Board of Education
Classes in wood shop and drafting typically require students use
basic math to determine measurements and angles of cuts as well as
geometry to design objects.
The students "are given 12-foot boards, and they have to come up
with ways to get the board cut into four pieces. ... They use the
everyday equations from geometry to figure out the length of the new
pieces," said Emily McCray, a teacher at Hoopeston Area High School
in the Hoopeston school district.
"Pretty much, we are teaching math, just in a different way," she
Frerichs said he drafted the bill after factory owners in his
district said they saw a decline in the ability of their employees
to perform basic math skills.
"I've run into this issue with several of my employers. They are
having trouble finding qualified candidates who have the math skills
to do what would seem to be very basic jobs," Frerichs said.
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Jim Nelson, vice president of the Illinois Manufacturers'
Association, or IMA, a trade group representing state manufacturers,
said anyone in manufacturing jobs, from welders to factory
line-workers, relies heavily on math.
"Today (the work) relies on using vertical measurements and
barometers. Workers need to read blueprints in both metric and
standard systems. All this requires ... math," Nelson said.
School officials are looking at the costs of a fourth year of
"If everyone has to take the class, you are going to have to have
more classes. There will be scheduling problems, space problems, and
you're probably going to need more math teachers," said Ben Schwarm,
associate executive director of governmental relations at the
Illinois Association of School Boards, a voluntary organization of
local school boards that promotes quality education.
Keith Liddell, principal of Carterville High School in the
Carterville Community Unit School District Number 5, stressed the
financial effects of another year of math.
"Between base salary, and by the time you add in the pension the
district is obligated to pay, and don't forget the insurance --
well, add those up and you're looking at roughly $50,000 to add one
staff member in our case," Liddell said.
This past year, the state gave the school districts $4.5 billion
in general state aid. Gov. Pat Quinn in his proposed budget wants to
keep that funding flat for the upcoming year.
Each year Illinois juniors take the Prairie State Achievement
Examination, or PSAE, which measures student achievement in reading,
science and math. Results from the 2011 PSAE show that only 51
percent of high school juniors throughout Illinois met or exceeded
state standards in math.
"There are students who are not going to go to college who may
not have the aptitude to take that fourth, higher level math class,
and our concern is now you are going to put some of the students in
a position where they can't succeed," said Schwarm, of the school
The state Senate committee passed the proposal Friday on a 6-4
vote, but the amendments must go back through the committee process.
Statehouse News; By STEPHANIE FRYER]