8th Grade Mathematics

Overview:

Mathematics competency is an essential part of academic success and its benefits extend far beyond the academic domain. Basic arithmetic is used on a daily basis and is a necessary skill for students heading into an increasingly technology-based workplace. Additionally, students who take higher-level mathematics and science courses are more likely to attend and complete college.

Focusing on creating a bright future for our students, Arizona has implemented measurable goals that hold our students, teachers, administrators, and schools accountable to higher standards in order to achieve improved results. As part of Arizona’s education reform plan, the state has set a goal of at least 85% of eighth grade students achieving scores of basic or better on the mathematics portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Actions at the State and Local Levels:

In order to ensure that Arizona children are prepared to succeed in high school and beyond, the Arizona State Board of Education adopted Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards in 2010 in English Language Arts and Mathematics. Mastery of these new standards will be measured by a more rigorous state assessment that will replace AIMS, beginning in the 2014-2015 school year. In addition, data on student academic progress is now included in the reformed evaluation system for school leaders and teachers. These reforms are adding accountability into Arizona’s education system, which will hold our students, teachers, administrators, and schools accountable to higher standards in order to foster student growth and future success.

Additional Actions to Consider:

At a local level, school districts and charter schools can find ways to make math relevant, interesting, and engaging by using approaches such as project-based learning, real-world examples, and learning environments that are more connected with the workplace. It is important that students are invested in their education and understand why math is a fundamental and necessary skill.

At a state level, policy-makers can focus on early math interventions and improved training for teachers and school leaders. Research shows that effective teachers and leaders are the largest in-school contributors to student learning and achievement. It is clear that no education reform initiative will be successful without highly effective teachers and school leaders. Therefore, the state should consider ways to attract and retain top-quality math teachers in Arizona’s education system.

As part of this goal, Arizona can look at measuring the number of math content experts teaching math in Arizona elementary and middle schools—those who have worked in math-intensive work-places, or who had a math-based major in college. In addition, effectively teaching higher level math concepts in early grade levels has proved challenging for many elementary teachers. As higher standards have been implemented, many teachers do not have the necessary skills to help kids understand and grasp important math concepts. Arizona can consider ways to encourage and incentivize math content to better equip teachers in Arizona’s elementary and middle schools.

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