Today, the NC Senate’s Education/Higher Education Committee considered changes to high school math.

Before the state adopted Common Core math standards in 2010, high schools offered the standard Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II sequence.  Eventually, schools implemented an integrated math approach, reorganizing the topics in the three courses and renaming them Math I, Math II, and Math III courses.

The NC Academic Standards Review Commission (ASRC) and the State Board of Education considered a return to the traditional sequence.  The final report of the ASRC did not include a recommendation to change high school math, although some members of the commission strongly supported it.

Earlier this month, members of the State Board of Education voted to keep the integrated approach.  They argued that students are performing better on standardized tests since the state made the change.  (Although it is a reasonable hypothesis, there is no evidence of a causal relationship between integrated math and student performance.  A number of other variables likely played a role.)

Leading up to today’s committee meeting, the NC Department of Public Instruction, advocacy groups, policy organizations, teachers, and others asked lawmakers to keep integrated math and reject a provision inserted into House Bill 657 that required schools to replace integrated math with the traditional sequence.

Republican Senator Jerry Tillman, the sponsor of the measure to ditch integrated math, offered a compromise – let schools decide.  The revised bill passed the committee and the Senate.  The bill is now in the House.

Sen. Tillman blunted much of the criticism directed at lawmakers who proposed the change, while paving the way for the return of the traditional sequence.  Although Common Core opponents may be dissatisfied with Tillman’s compromise, I think it is a powerful acknowledgment that instruction need not be a one-size-fits-all approach.