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State Senate to consider pair of key education bills, including dual high school math sequences, tonight

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.

The N.C. Senate is expected to consider a pair of key education bills when it convenes Monday night.

According to the chamber’s calendar, legislators will consider a controversial Senate rewrite of House Bill 657, originally authored to study tuition at UNC universities, that orders public high schools to offer students the choice of newly-integrated math courses (combining statistics, algebra and geometry) or more traditional, separated courses.

Sen. Jerry Tillman, an influential Republican representing Moore and Randolph, is one of the bill’s supporters, arguing that the integrated courses, touted by academics for linking key mathematical concepts, are a struggle for some students and parents to understand.

Tillman has rebuffed calls for additional funding for schools to offer both the traditional and integrated courses, saying that math teachers should be able to lead either class.

Opponents, however, say the legislation will pose major problems for public schools, just four years after school leaders and teachers moved to teach the integrated courses. One teacher pointed out last week that the integrated courses have been praised by some business leaders for better prepping students.

Lawmakers will also review House Bill 242, which was originally focused on white collar investigations but later rewritten by Senate Republicans to limit the N.C. State Board of Education’s power to shutter low-performing charter schools.

Under one provision in the bill, state board members would not be able to close charters with chronically low test scores if students in the schools have shown academic growth.

“You’re not going to shut down any school that’s meeting growth,” Tillman argued in a Senate education committee last week. “That means the kids are learning.”

Tillman, a frequent critic of public schools, also took the opportunity to lash out at leaders on the state board and in the public schools.

“We know how far their plans have gotten us with low performing schools already,” said Tillman.

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