Three years ago, the state of Utah adopted higher academic standards for K-12 students. President of the Utah Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Joleigh Honey, says after reviewing two years of tests aligned to the change in standards she finds that student scores are improving.
“And as a result of the higher standards our teachers are working hard and our students are showing up,” says Honey. “And while we have work to do we are seeing from year to year that the level of confidence with the standards and the depth of understanding our students are gaining is increasing, which is great news.”
Based on the assessments Utah students from third grade to eighth grade have made the strongest gains, with the number of Utah students at each grade level increasing in English Language Arts and in Math. Honey says the three percentage points of growth in math means that 53 percent of Utah third graders are ready for the fourth grade. She says is it not because it is easier for students to pass the core curriculum testing. Teacher training courses funded by Utah lawmakers through the states USTAR and STEM programs have helped educators work with students who struggle. One of the programs is designed to give students attending rural high schools access to advanced courses to prepare them for college once they graduate.
“Those same funds could be used to provide an intervention class for those students who have in the past have struggled with Algebra 1 now they have additional supports to be successful with the more rigorous standards,” says Honey.
Honey and other members of the Utah Council of Teachers of Mathematics will follow funding plans for related programs during the upcoming session of the Utah Legislature. She says funding to help Utah students meet core curriculum standards is key to maintaining and upward movement for academic standards.