This reminds of a fractured fairy tale, Emperor Ahnold sends an edict out throughout the land that all the 8th graders shall take algebra. Only there isn’t any fairy godmother who can wave a magic wand and turn kids who have struggled in math for years into algebra scholars. Until and unless Oakland is going to commit resources to identifying and helping the kids who need it (and based on my experience they don’t have the will or people-power to do so), they have no business imposing a requirement like this.

]]>This is no different.

The real purpose of forcing inappropriate students into algebra is to wreck the math program and screw over all the students. You are presumed to intend the logical results of your actions.

Repeat after me: “These are not real schools. These are not real schools.”

In a real school the students are not placed in programs they are expected to fail. Algebra would be introduced in math classes early – say 4th and 5th grade on. Those who pick up would be identified and moved up to the higher math classes. Those who can’t grasp the concepts would continue survey courses while developing other talents that do progress to higher levels. If the child and family want him/her to take the higher math classes they would be allowed to enroll against advice.

]]>It is also interesting to note that the instructions from the district for selecting students for the summer Algebra academies emphasized picking students who would be able to succeed in Algebra I with this extra help, in other words, schools were not supposed to place the least skilled students in the Algebra academies. Nonetheless, those students will be required to take Algebra I in the fall.

No state other than California is even attempting to place all students in Algebra I in eighth grade. All the math teacher groups oppose it. Math teachers at Montera, the middle school with the highest math scores, recently presented their unanimous opposition to the idea.

State Superintendent Jack O’Connell opposes the Algebra I for all requirement.

Almost no other districts have all their students in Algebra I.

Take a look at Piedmont, for example. Only half their students take Algebra I in eighth grade, but 88% of those students test Proficient on the CST, and almost all their students complete Algebra I in either eighth or ninth grade. Oakland still has 25% taking Algebra I in the tenth grade.

I have heard some argue that we must require Algebra for all because otherwise white and Asian students will get Algebra in the eighth grade, and Latino and black students will not. The state statistics do not support that claim. Many white students and some Asians do not take Algebra I in eighth grade across the state, and it is clear that there are far more underprepared black and Latino students in Algebra I classes than other groups.

Algebra academies are an excellent idea, but requiring Algebra I for all eighth graders is not. ]]>