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Senate approves controversial bill clearing the way for two high school math tracks

Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Moore, Randolph, supports the revisions to the math curriculum.

Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Moore, Randolph, supports the revisions to the math curriculum.

As expected, the N.C. Senate voted Thursday morning to approve controversial legislation that would direct North Carolina high schools to give students the option of two math tracks—one offering the traditional, separated math courses and the other combining statistics, algebra and geometry into one integrated course.

House Bill 657 originally dealt with tuition rates at UNC universities, but a Senate rewrite led by Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Moore, Randolph, instead orders schools to offer both math tracks by 2017-2018.

An earlier version of Tillman’s bill would have forced schools to provide both courses by the 2016-2017 school year.

Supporters said the integrated courses—which had been praised by business leaders and educators for its comprehensive linking of math courses—were troublesome for some parents and students.

Critics said the directive would only complicate matters for already overburdened public school teachers, who worked to phase in the integrated courses just four years ago.

In recent days, Tillman rebuffed talk of directing additional funding to schools to help phase in the dual courses. However, the chamber on Thursday did go along with an amendment from Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram, a Democrat and a teacher representing eight counties in northeastern North Carolina who supported the measure.

Smith-Ingram’s amendment calls for a study on the appropriate teacher-student ratio needed in schools in order to offer both tracks, although it’s unclear when or how that survey would be conducted.

Smith-Ingram said it was necessary to ensure schools have “adequate resources” for the job.

“This will be problematic for some of the smaller schools who have only one math teacher or two math teachers,” she said.

Otherwise, the bill passed 33-13, mostly on partisan lines, with very little debate Thursday. The legislation did, however, spur some fiery debate on on the Senate floor Wednesday, according to EdNC’s Alex Granados. 

The Senate’s version of the bill will now head to the state House.

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