Even without the de facto eighth-grade Algebra I mandate, middle schools across the state have struggled to find enough teachers with a solid foundation in the subject. So what’s going to happen now, with the rapid expansion of middle school algebra?

The Santa Cruz-based Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning just published a brief on the subject, titled “California’s Approach to Math Instruction Still Doesn’t Add Up.”

Here’s an excerpt:

The number of middle school students enrolled in Algebra I classes in which the teacher is either underprepared or assigned “out-of-field” rose from 73,000 in 2004 to more than 74,000 in 2007.

In California, about 32% of the workforce assigned to teach Algebra I in middle school does not have a subject matter credential in mathematicsand may lack the background and preparation necessary to effectively teach the subject.

Read the four-page brief here.

Educators and policy-makers seem to agree that Algebra I is a tricky subject to teach and learn. So how are kids supposed to learn it from someone with a layman’s understanding of the material?

The center recommends an intensive summer institute for eighth-grade Algebra I teachers that includes 80 hours of initial training and another 80 hours of follow-up instruction (and $2,000 stipends for teachers). They estimate that such an effort would cost $3.6 million, and suggest that businesses, private foundations and industries — who have an interest in seeing students better prepared in math — funnel some of their education reform resources to such an initiative.

According to the brief, California once funded a similar institute, but that it no longer does.

Is it me, or does the state seem to be falling into a familiar pattern: Create a sweeping change (class-size reduction, higher counselor ratios, etc.) and *then* figure out how to make it work. Maybe policy-makers feel it’s the only way to get things done.

Will it work?

image from batsignal’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons

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