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Should Utah high schoolers be required to take four years of math?

By Morgan Jacobsen | Posted - Mar. 5, 2015 at 8:56 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Board of Education may get yet another request to put a heavier emphasis on math proficiency among high schoolers.

The House Education Committee unanimously approved a resolution Thursday urging education leaders to require students take four years of math in high school, unless they can demonstrate adequate proficiency before their senior year.

HR5, sponsored by Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, allows the State School Board to decide how to determine whether a student should take a math class each year.

The resolution and another bill, as well as recommendations to the State School Board from the Utah System of Higher Education, are all aimed at reducing the need for remedial math classes in Utah's colleges and universities.

SB196, sponsored by Sen. Ann Millner, R-Ogden, would require college-bound high schoolers to demonstrate college entry-level math proficiency before graduation. Students planning to enter the workforce immediately after high school would have to demonstrate the math skills necessary to obtain a career and technology education certificate.

Millner, who served for 10 years as president of Weber State University, said about 12,000 Utah students each year enroll in remedial math courses, which don't count toward graduation but still cost tuition.

The Utah System of Higher Education has also called on the State School Board to implement a requirement for four years of math to reduce time to college graduation and improve retention.

Eliason said his resolution would act as a backstop should Millner's bill fail. He said the emphasis of HR5 isn't necessarily on more classroom time, but on ensuring that students are ready for college.

"We're urging the State (School) Board to basically come up with a way that we can make sure our students are proficient and not just spending four years in a seat," Eliason said. "That might be the answer, to spend four years in the classroom, if you haven't demonstrated proficiency. … We just want the right product in terms of proficiency as our students move on to higher education."

Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Salt Lake City, who voted in favor of the bill, agreed that students' performance in math is not where it should be. But she said students required to take four years of math would have limited ability to explore other fields during their latter years of high school.

"When we start adding any classes, we are eliminating opportunities for kids to participate in things like music, drama and debate," Moss said. "I hope the State (School) Board will keep that in mind, too, if they add requirements."

The resolution now goes to the House for consideration. Email: Twitter: MorganEJacobsen

Morgan Jacobsen


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