Viewing blog posts written by Gino DiCaro

Algebra earlier policy not proven anywhere

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on Aug. 29, 2008

The Sacramento Bee editorialized this morning that moving the Algebra I standard to the 8th grade was a proper use of the State's resources because it would force our schools to teach basic math skills earlier,  ensure that every 13 year old is ready to tackle algebra, and "increase the richness of the experience in the fifth, sixth and seventh grades."

The problem with the 8th grade Algebra I mandate isn't that every high school student shouldn't be competent in Algebra I skills, it's that an arbitrary decision to move Algebra I coursework from 9th to 8th grade has an enormous cost to a public education system that is already misprioritizing funds .  Improving California's current 8th grade math scores should be our first priority before raising the bar to include Algebra I standards.

California ranks 5th worst (45th overall) in terms of 8th grade math achievement according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.  All 44 states that have higher scores do NOT require algebra in the 8th grade.  That's worth repeating -- not a single state that ranks higher in math achievement has done what California is about to do, let alone spent $3 billion to implement the change.

There might be some good arguments for starting algebra enlightenment earlier for some students, but, as a State that has become one of the worst in math learning and as a State Government that currently needs to leverage every single educational dollar, we should be looking at the successes around the country and emulating those before we test broad new theories.

High school and middle school dropouts continue to increase at an alarming rate in our state.    Millions of  remediation dollars are spent in our schools while we remove students from other relevant, and sometimes educational-awakening, applied learning courses (sometimes even non-math courses that teach math in other ways).  California manufacturers -- who pay some of the state's highest salaries -- can't find skilled workers for highly technical careers.  Increased spending on Career Technical Education (CTE) seems to be a much wiser expenditure of scarce education dollars.  The California Department of Education's (CDE) own education statistics show that for students who take three sequential CTE course, the dropout rate is cut in half.

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