The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Statement on the Governor's Math Initiative
January 25, 2000
The Governor has rightly directed our focus to the crisis in math education that has been highlighted by the last two administrations of MCAS. A statewide failure rate of 40 percent in 8th grade and 53 percent in 10th grade is unacceptable and does not bode well for 2001 when the test will begin to count toward graduation. Math performance on MCAS is almost uniformly worse than English. The conclusion that our most pressing problem is math achievement is inescapable.
It is our expectation that schools and districts are already taking steps to improve math instruction generally and to identify those students who need extra help. Nevertheless, we at the state level also have an obligation to reinforce and accelerate these efforts.
There is a growing consensus that the most important contributor to effective teaching is subject mastery. There is also a growing awareness that we have not focused enough attention on developing subject matter knowledge among incoming and veteran teachers-especially in math. We have attempted to address this issue through our recent revision of the teacher recertification regulations. The Department and the Joint Commission on Educator Preparation are putting together proposals, which we will review in a few months, to address this problem at the undergraduate level. It is my hope and expectation that these measures will yield positive results over time. But for many students, time may be running out. That is why the Governor's directive to take action now in those schools with high failure rates in math is so important and timely.
In response to the Governor's math initiative, I have already begun working with the Commissioner to develop a specific implementation proposal for consideration at our February board meeting. We would welcome any input from Board members as we embark on this process.