MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama’s newly hired school superintendent has quickly named his first major initiative: Math
“We have a crisis in math education in this state,” Superintendent Michael Sentance told state board of education members during a work session on Thursday.
Sentance said he wants to develop a strategy to raise state math scores that languish at the bottom among the states.
Alabama fourth-graders ranked 52nd and eighth-graders ranked 51st in math scores, according to National Assessment of Education Progress. The rankings include all states, the District of Columbia and Department of Defense schools. “Those are very challenging numbers. We are not only moving ahead fast enough, we’re actually falling behind other states,” Sentance said.
Sentance, who took over as superintendent on Sept. 12, said it didn’t take long on the job to determine that boosting math scores had to be the first goal.
Those languishing scores, he said, have consequences for the entire state economy, making it difficult for the state to recruit tech jobs and other industry.
Sentance says he wants a panel of about 25 educators, math experts and business representatives to help develop recommendations.
“Everything will be on the table,” Sentance said after the meeting. He said that will include the preparation of teachers.
Test scores were cited as a chief concern by board members who in August voted to hire Sentance, an education consultant and the former education secretary of Massachusetts.
Sentance said between 1996 and 2015, Massachusetts moved from 24 to 49 percent of students being classified as proficient or advanced in math. In Alabama, 26 percent pf public school students fall into that category.
“We can make an enormous gain in ten years if we do these things now and if we do them well,” he said.
He hopes to have a draft proposal before the board in December. He said proposals for science and reading will follow later this year.
“It was impressive in that Mr. Sentance not only wanted to look at his own ideas, he’s putting together a task force,” board member Yvette Richardson said after the meeting. “I also like that he feels we need to look at how we can enhance math instruction for our teachers so when they come out, they can be better prepared for our students.”