Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) on Tuesday signed the controversial "Numeracy Act" math instruction legislation into law.
The Act will result in the state hiring hundreds of math coaches to coach classroom teachers on how to teach mathematics. Alabama’s notoriously low math scores are ranked as worst in the nation. Senate Bill 171 (SB171) was sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr (R – Decatur) and carried in the House of Representatives by State Rep. Alan Baker (R–Brewton).
“Literacy and numeracy are the blocking and tackling of education, plain and simple,” Ivey said. “For our students to have positive educational outcomes and to have success later in life, we must ensure proficiency in both reading and math is achieved. That is why, here in Alabama, we are focusing on what matters, and that is core instruction – not any of the other nonsense. Alabama parents wholeheartedly agree with that.”
Before the pandemic disrupted in-person learning, Alabama’s fourth graders ranked 52nd in the nation in their ability to do math, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) testing given at the end of 2019. The long months of e-learning and lack of in-person instruction appear to have only worsened many students’ academic performance.
“We cannot accept passing our students along without the proper foundation as the status quo, and that is why I have proudly signed the Alabama Numeracy Act into law,” said Ivey. “This strategic, targeted and wise investment in our children will provide necessary resources, will include high-quality instruction and will keep our schools accountable. The Alabama Numeracy Act delivers on my commitment to place the same sense of urgency on math as we rightfully have on reading.”
Many of Ivey’s political opponents spoke against the Numeracy Act due to the exorbitant $97 million cost and the fear that the new math coaching positions will only exacerbate school systems’ inability to find qualified math teachers. They argue that since Alabama adopted the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards in 2013, the state’s academic performance has only worsened and that the standards - particularly the experimental mathematics teaching methods - are the primary reason for the problem. Opponents suggest that the new math should be jettisoned along with all of the expensive texts that the state has purchased since 2013 and that the state simply adopt the pre-Common Core curriculum that stressed arithmetic fact memorization rather than longer, seemingly convoluted math methods.
The Alabama Literacy Act was passed in 2019 to address Alabama’s school children’s reading struggles. The Numeracy Act, supporters hope, is an attempt by the state to improve the state’s low education rankings.
Wednesday will be day 28 of the session. There are at most three days left in the 2022 regular session.
Gov. Ivey is seeking reelection but faces a crowded May 24 Republican primary.
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