Orr on Alabama students ranking last in math nationwide: “That’s unacceptable”

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DECATUR, Ala. – Alabama schoolchildren are falling behind when it comes to mathematics, that’s according to a national evaluation known as the Nation’s Report Card.

In 2019, Alabama school children in 4th through 8th grades scored dead last on the National Assessment of Education Progress.

Decatur-based Alabama State Senator Arthur Orr is heading up proposed legislation that would address math deficiencies, especially in younger children.

“People say, ‘well, there are only 50 states.’ Well, we were behind the District of Columbia and we were behind the Department of Defense schools as well,” Orr said.

Orr explained the bill lays out plans for a number of interventions, like putting more math coaches in schools, adding summer school options and various programs both during and after school hours. He says the focus, though, would be on prepping students in 1st through 5th grades.

“At the end of the fifth grade, there is an evaluation to see whether the student should continue based on their capabilities,” he said.

Right now, it’s still a work in progress. Orr said even if it were to pass at the first legislative session of next year, it would not be fully implemented for another 6 years.

“This is not something that’s going to threaten children with retention a year or two from now. It’s going to take time and working with these children as they come through elementary school,” he said.

If it passes and kicks off fully in 2028, Orr estimates the budget would need to be about $60-70 million annually; coming out of the state’s education budget.

“If we know that we have this coming cost and are building slowly over time, let’s say, $10 million a year, that’s something we can digest pretty easily in an $8 billion budget.”

It’s a price tag, he said is well worth it to get Alabama’s kids in line with the rest of the nation.

“When they leave elementary school, they’ve got to be able to succeed or meet a minimal level of competency when it comes to mathematics, again, because we are dead last in the country and that is unacceptable,” he said.

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