June 26, 2004
FLAGSTAFF - State schools chief Tom Horne asked the Arizona Board of Regents on Friday to consider lowering the new math requirement for university admission from four to three credits because too many high school graduates could be ineligible.
Horne was reacting to a study that found only 16.8 percent of the 2002 graduating class would have been eligible for admission to state universities under standards that go into effect in 2006. Under current admission standards, which do not require passing all math elements, 43 percent of the 2002 class were eligible.
"Taking (advanced) calculus isn’t going to help someone who is majoring in English literature," said Horne, state superintendent of public instruction and a member of the board.
Horne made his request during the board’s meeting here, where regents debated how to increase the pool of students eligible for admission to the state’s three public universities.
Failure to complete math and science requirements is part of the problem. Researchers found that only one-third of the 2002 class completed the math requirement for university admission. Usually four years of high school math consists of two credits of algebra, one credit for geometry and one credit of advanced math such as calculus or trigonometry. Other problem areas were science and languages.
Under the new rules for admission, students must graduate in the top 25 percent of their class and complete all 16 core requirements for a guaranteed spot in the freshman class. Students who don’t complete all 16 will be admitted, subject to the review of the universities’ admissions staff.
The report noted that American Indian and Hispanic students had the lowest completion rates in math —53 percent and 61 percent respectively. Asian-Americans had the highest at 88 percent.
Horne said it’s important to look beyond high school when establishing admission requirements. He said not every student is cut out to go beyond trigonometry and suggested it might be a good idea to reduce the number of core requirements to 15.
Other regents weren’t as enthusiastic.
University of Arizona President Peter Likens countered that such a move would make first-year athletes ineligible for competition under NCAA rules, which require 16 core requirements.
An alternative proposal would require students to take one of their math courses in their senior year to prepare them for college math placement tests. Students who haven’t had math as seniors tend to score lower on placement tests, said Tom Wickenden, associate executive director for academic and student affairs.
The regents agreed to study the superintendent’s suggestion. Horne said he would make a formal request next year.