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The National Research Council, the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, has created a new board on mathematics education to assess and strengthen math instruction in the nation's schools.

The board was formed, according to the council, in response to numerous national studies noting declining scores on standardized math tests, decreased high-school graduation requirements in math, and severe shortages of qualified math teachers in some states.

A principal goal of the board will be to identify the math skills needed by students "preparing to work at all levels of an information-intensive, high-technology society," according to the council.

The board--chaired by Shirley A. Hill, professor of mathematics and education at the University of Missouri-Kansas City--will produce research studies, hold national and regional symposia, and sponsor teacher-assistance programs and related activities. It will also work with business, industry, and federal, state, and local agencies to improve math instruction.

A majority of teachers surveyed in a new poll attribute many of the problems afflicting the nation's public schools to parents who are too permissive and not sufficiently involved in their children's education.

Eighty-seven percent of the 1,172 elementary- and secondary-school teachers responding to the survey, conducted for Parade Magazine by Mark Clements Research Inc. and published in the magazine this month, said they felt parents are too permissive.

When asked what would help them do a better job, teachers most frequently cited better student attitudes toward learning. The second most frequently cited factor was more parental involvement at home.

The teachers polled said they often find that parents are "not at home" to discuss their children's school-related problems and do not create a home environment conducive to learning.

Just over half said the recent spate of state-level education reforms has not improved the education that students receive. And 20 percent said increased standards have actually led to higher dropout rates.

The biggest problem students pose for teachers, according to the poll, is apathy.

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