LITTLE ROCK — The state Board of Education on Thursday approved new mathematics standards for public schools after being told the standards would introduce more rigor and practical applications into the curriculum.

LITTLE ROCK — The state Board of Education on Thursday approved new mathematics standards for public schools after being told the standards would introduce more rigor and practical applications into the curriculum.


Ouida Newton, 2015 Arkansas Teacher of the Year, who served on a committee that reviewed the new standards, said the changes will be a big benefit to Arkansas students.


"I’m very proud of these standards. We worked really hard on working together and coming to a consensus about what the standards said. These standards are strong. We’re going to ask our students to be critical thinkers, to be problem solvers," she told the board.


Stacy Smith, the state Department of Education’s assistant commissioner for learning services, and Thomas Coy, director of the Curriculum and Instruction Department, said the process of developing the standards began in October and involved more than 80 teachers, administrators and higher education professors.


Committees spent nine days reviewing the standards, which describe what students are expected to know and do for each grade level. The review meetings were live-streamed, and 1,137 responses to a public survey were considered. The end result was the revision or clarification of two-thirds of the state’s math standards.


Asked if any of the rigor of the previous standards was lessened during the review process, Smith said the opposite was the case.


"It’s kind of funny; in some of the standards, we had teachers sitting around the table saying this isn’t hard enough. We didn’t have a single teacher who wanted to make it less," she told the board.


High school courses that align with the new standards are to be presented for board approval during the May meeting. Schools may begin implementing the new standards next year, with full implementation in grades K-12 planned for the 2017-18 academic year.