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State school chiefs math answer not to Forsyths liking

FORSYTH COUNTY — High schools will be able to offer either integrated or traditional/discrete math courses starting in the 2015-16 school year, a choice the Forsyth County Board of Education hoped would not come to fruition.

Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods asked for public comment in January on whether the state should allow a choice between the two options after recent feedback raised concerns over the integrated model.

Integrated math combines subjects such as algebra, geometry and statistics into Math I, II or III instead of teaching each in a separate class. This method began in 2008.

In 2012, former Superintendent John Barge shifted to a more traditional form of math with analytic geometry, coordinate algebra and advanced algebra.

The state Department of Education, which Woods joined this year, announced on Thursday both options will be available to high schools.

“I have heard many times from students, teachers and parents that the lack of a traditional/discrete math option is an enormously troubling issue,” Woods said.

Forsyth County’s school board voiced at February’s work session — before the state announcement — that it favored traditional classes.

“[Traditional math] will stay rigorous,” said Cindy Salloum, associate superintendent of school improvement for the district. “What’s difficult about integrated math is the lack of resources. You can hunt stuff up, but you have to spend a lot of time looking for resources.

“With traditional, it’s out there. Because across the U.S., that’s what people do. Algebra and geometry and that track. Textbook companies, they produce resources that way.”

She said professional learning time in the school system has been focused on creating resources before teachers can develop content.

The board went one step further, though, than to simply agree on what method it prefers. It approved a resolution to recommend Superintendent Woods take away integrated math altogether.

The reasoning was to have math uniformly taught in every district.

“Forsyth County is so transient, if a student transfers in or out of the system, figuring out transcripts is difficult,” Salloum said. “… We have to call the [student’s previous] school system and get them to actually send us a syllabus of what they taught. Then we match it as best we can with what courses we have.”

She noted that math taught in college leans toward traditional in Georgia.

“Our teachers were asked [what they preferred]. By doing this, the board is not only supporting them, but supporting them publicly,” she said, adding that just one local high school wanted to stick with integrated, but “that was because simply of the change.”