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Putnam school board seeks waiver from Common Core math

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By Mike Hricik  
The Charleston Gazette  
 
WINFIELD — Putnam County secondary math teachers don’t like the structure of certain Common Core courses. And, they feel that their students aren’t getting the course material either.

Putnam County Board of Education members unanimously approved seeking a waiver from the state from Common Core “integrated” math curricula on Monday night.

If approved by the West Virginia Department of Education, the waiver would allow instructors to teach more traditional math courses, Superintendent Chuck Hatfield said.

“Quite simply, our teachers collectively feel like it’s a better approach,” he said. “We’re just being supportive of our teachers.”

Courses at Putnam middle schools and high schools are currently taught in an integrated format.

For instance, instead of students progressing from elementary algebra to advanced algebra, and then to geometry, they take classes with titles like “Math I” and “Math II,” board members said. Different subjects are often taught in the same semester, garnering complaints from dozens of math teachers.

Administrators met with teachers multiple times during the past year. At the last meeting, 26 out of 27 teachers present voted in favor of seeking a waiver from the state to teach classes like elementary algebra and advanced geometry again, Hatfield said.

District administrators adopted new curricula for math classes during the 2011-2012 school year, he said.

Integrated math classes allow students to draw meaningful connections between disciplines like algebra and calculus, according to the national Common Core website.

The state already allows for school districts to teach either integrated math classes or more traditional courses. Neither route is expressly recommended by education officials.

But, a waiver — which would not affect elementary school students — is still necessary to make the switch back to long-established classes, Hatfield said.

The school board will immediately seek state approval of the waiver, because scheduling for the next school year begins in January, he said.

Board member Craig Spicer was the only one absent from Monday’s voting. The board will meet again on Jan. 6, instead of the first Monday of the month, to accommodate Spicer’s schedule.