AUSTIN (AP) – The State Board of Education approved math curriculum standards for all K-12 students in Texas for the next 10 years on Friday, despite concerns by an influential business group that the new requirements weren’t strenuous enough to train the future workforce.
The unanimous vote came with little fanfare or debate, even though the issue has sparked strong feelings among supporters and critics. The new curriculums for students in kindergarten through eighth grade are expected to take effect in 2014, and high school math standards should begin the following year.
Approval only went smoothly after the education board spent hours Thursday going through curriculums for each grade, tweaking language and the requirements. There was little support, however, for delaying a final vote to allow for more-substantial rewriting.
The proposed requirements are based on previous Texas standards and past curriculums in California, Massachusetts and Minnesota, as well as standards in Singapore. They don’t adhere to the widely used national standards outlined in the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which is coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers.
Texas is just one of five states to shun the national standards in math, language arts and other essential subjects, which were developed working with teachers, school administrators and experts. The standards are meant to provide a consistent benchmark for preparing students for college and the workforce.
The national standards have been seen by some in Texas as a national overreach and a threat to state control of schools. Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott urged the board to come up with standards unique to the state — but ensure they were better than the ones adopted almost everywhere else in the country.
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a nonprofit think tank that Texas lawmakers have previously described as conservative, said Friday that it supports the new Texas curriculum but believes the requirements don’t go far enough.
“The new standards are an improvement on the current mediocre standards but still flawed and inferior to the Common Core math standards,” said Kathleen Porter-Magee, senior director of the High Quality Standards Program at the Washington-based institute.
The Texas Association of Business, one of the most-influential organizations of its kind in the state, opposed the new curriculum standards as not strict enough — arguing that they ultimately will hurt the competiveness of future Texas workforces.
The group said the requirements try to cover so many areas that they practically are incoherent at times, and don’t place enough focus on basics like algebra.
The association’s president, Bill Hammond, declined to comment following Friday’s vote, saying he hadn’t seen the modified and amended curriculum as passed by the board.
Some education groups and classroom experts have supported the standards as a major step forward. But others worry students are being asked to do too much, tackling advanced math at young ages.
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