A main driving force behind the common core initiative is the desire to establish consistent academic benchmarks by grade level to ensure every student is career- or college-ready upon graduating from high school. This shift in curriculum seeks to close achievement gaps and create a clear set of educational requirements nationwide.

http://tinyurl.com/93ac8ayCurrently, the common core initiative focuses primarily on math and language arts, with states across the nation working to align their curriculum with the common core guidelines. One such state is Montana. Previously, Glacier and Flathead high school students were required to take just two years of math to fulfill the graduation requirement. Recently, the district’s school board voted unanimously to increase the graduation requirement to three years of math education.

This is a nationwide trend and it is important for parents to engages students in the process so they remain informed and are not delayed by more demanding graduation requirements.

Students who will be sophomores at Glacier and Flathead high schools for the 2013-14 school year will be the first class required to take three years of math.

Currently, high school students are only required to take two years of math.

The school board approved the measure last week on a 9-1 vote, with trustee Jeremy Reed opposing. Trustee Thomas Clark was absent.

The requirement aligns to many college entrance requirements and the Common Core State Standards.

The Common Core is a new set of academic standards focused on English and math in kindergarten through 12th grade. The standards have been adopted in 45 states to establish clear and consistent academic benchmarks by grade level.

New assessments and full implementation are expected in Montana schools by the 2014-15 school year.

Some trustees, such as Reed, were concerned that requiring a third math course would increase high school dropout rates.

Assistant Superintendent Dan Zorn assured trustees the district would create courses geared toward students with different skill levels besides the traditional track of algebra, geometry and calculus.

“We’re confident we can create some divergent paths for our kids,” Zorn said.

Mary Ann Lidstrom, Flathead High School math department head, addressed the board about designing courses for both career- and college-bound students.

“We already have ideas, background on what we can do to bring up the math skills of the students that need three credits but aren’t the typical student that loves math,” Lidstrom said. “We can’t dictate interest in mathematics, which of course is true of any subject, but I think we can find that course that will improve their skills and allow them to be successful.”

Kalispell is not the first Class AA district to require three math credits. Butte, Bozeman and Great Falls districts also require three math credits.

Glacier Principal Callie Langohr and Flathead Principal Peter Fusaro agreed that providing course alternatives and support would be critical to student success.

“We need to come up with courses that will meet the needs of those kids who tend to struggle, but I firmly believe, given time, any kid can succeed in math,” Fusaro said.

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