The bill entitled “Career and College Readiness Mathematics Competency” is now state law. This bill requires college-bound high school students not only to complete required high school math courses as determined by the Utah State Board of Education, but also to receive a “qualifying score” on an AP calculus or statistics exam, on an IB higher level math exam, on an ACCUPLACER College-level math exam, or on the ACT Mathematics Test as a high school graduation requirement. A “qualifying score” is defined as a score that would allow the student to receive college credit for a lower-level (general education/core) math course.
Receiving college credit for lower-level college courses based on ACT, SAT, AP, IB, or similar tests is common practice in both English and mathematics. Some constituencies are concerned that the new bill will also allow students in high school who take college-level classes taught by their high school teacher on-site at their high school—called “concurrent classes”1—to meet both high school graduation and college-level requirements.
Further, the bill specifies that a high school student who has earned a grade of C or better in a required high school mathematics course automatically qualifies for a concurrent enrollment course. This measure, according to the bill, will
… increase access to a range of mathematics concurrent courses . . . and establish a consistent process to qualify high school teachers with an upper level mathematics endorsement to teach entry level mathematics concurrent enrollment courses. (SB 196 Second Substitute Math Competency Initiative)
This legislation raises several practical questions. One concerns teacher qualifications: What is the level of qualification of a high school teacher who teaches higher-level high school math (called Level 3 math in Utah) when compared to a college teacher who often has a terminal (EdD, PhD) degree? Teachers without terminal degrees will therefore teach college-level courses.
Another question is about students who change their post-high school goals: What happens when a high school student indicates that he or she does not plan to attend college and then, post-graduation, decides to do so? Those students will have graduated from high school under a different set of requirements that does not include the additional mandated testing. Yet, these students may also graduate from high school in good standing and later apply to a college of their choice.
An Assistant Commissioner recently stated that these and other issues are yet to be “worked out” (Personal Communication) as the law is implemented.
1 A “concurrent course” is taught in the high school building by a high school teacher for college credit. In contrast, what is sometimes called a “dual enrollment” course is a college course that the high school student takes from a college professor f2f on the college campus or via the college’s distance learning system (online, broadcast, etc.).