More math, science pose worthwhile challenges (Tucson Citizen editorial)

August 10, 2007

By Flinn Foundation

[Source: Tucson Citizen editorial board] — We urge the state Board of Education to enact more stringent high school math and science requirements when it meets Friday. A requirement for four years of high school math and three years of science may sound excessive, even counterproductive, to some. It isn’t. Consider:

  • Math is like muscle; you use it or lose it. That’s largely why up to 70 percent of community college students need remedial math after they graduate from high school. Many of today’s kids take as few as two years of math in high school, ending their math studies in sophomore year. By the time they get to college, their math skills are worse than rusty; they’re virtually gone. High school students who marinate in math for four years don’t have that problem. Their transition into college algebra is much easier.
  • In North Carolina, a challenging high school curriculum was found to be the best predictor for student success in college, especially among Latino and black students. All the talk about a need for “high expectations” has been proved true. Kids do rise to the challenges presented to them.
  • Students who had more math classes in high school fared better in all types of science in college, according to a new survey by researchers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the University of Virginia. Every year of high school math taken added 1.86 points to the student’s grade in college chemistry and 1.84 points in college biology, says the study, published in Science.
  • AT&T and Google are just two of the high-tech giants that have expressed a desperate need for highly skilled workers. Such companies have been forced to import engineers from India because our nation cannot meet their demands.

If Arizona’s youths are to succeed – not only in school, but also in life – they must be given the skills essential to do so. Math and science are the foundation of the high-tech skills that employers say are at a premium nowadays.

We commend Gov. Janet Napolitano and her P-20 Council for recommending more rigorous requirements in high school math and science. And we urge the state Board of Education to adopt those proposals so high schools can begin to inject more rigor into math and science for all students, not just those in Advanced Placement studies.