Georgia public high school freshmen students beginning next fall will need to complete four years of math and science in order to graduate. However, they will no longer be required to take a single foreign language course unless they want to.

The state Board of Education on Thursday, Sept. 13, unanimously approved new rules that essentially merge the college-preparatory and vocational studies tracks into one.

In the past, college-prep track students have been required to take four units of math, three units of science and two units of foreign language. Instead of requiring a foreign language, the new guidelines call for students to take three credits from among career, technical and agricultural education, foreign language or fine arts.

Although the proposal met with resistance from foreign language teachers, proponents pointed out that most students on a college-prep track would continue to take a foreign language because colleges generally require it.

State Superintendent Kathy Cox even predicted that foreign language enrollment would increase because students in the vocational track have, in the past, often been discouraged from taking foreign languages.

The intent of the board in adopting the increased math and science requirements is to prepare students for the economy of the 21st century.

The problem may come from the increased demand that may be created for math and science teachers, who are among the hardest to hire. In fact, the Gwinnett County public school system searches as far as China and India for qualified math and science teachers.

Math curriculum forum planned for October

Fulton County public school parents can learn more about the Georgia Performance Standards math curriculum at six forums during the month of October.

Kindergarten through second grade, as well as sixth and seventh grade, are already using the new math curriculum. This year, students are seeing changes in grades third through fifth and eighth grade. High school students begin the new math standards in 2008-09.

Fulton Schools Director of Math Curriculum Lori Fanning will give a presentation followed by a question-and-answer session. Each meeting will begin at 7 p.m.

In Sandy Springs, the math curriculum forum will be held on Oct. 22 at Sandy Springs Middle School, 8750 Colonel Dr.