Calif. considers changing eighth grade Algebra 1 requirement

February 4, 2013 6:01:11 PM PST
A new change in education in California, means this state is getting rid of a 15-year policy that requires eighth graders to take Algebra 1. Critics think the change is a step backward.

The State Board of Education decided California eighth graders will no longer be required to take Algebra 1. Instead, California adopted what's called Common Core curriculum, a policy most states have moved to where students can still take Algebra 1 if their districts can offer it or take courses with elements of Algebra. They'll have opportunities for more advanced math in high school.

"This doesn't do anything to limit the possibility students can take Algebra, in the eighth grade in the same way they've always been able to, but doesn't necessarily require them to," said Gerry Shelton, an education consultant.

Critics say schools that are struggling will choose not to offer Algebra 1, leaving low-income students ill-prepared for college.

With Algebra 1 required, the percentage of African-American students enrolled in the class went from 24 percent to 60 percent in the last nine years. For Latinos, that tripled to 63 percent.

It's hard to ignore how important Algebra 1 is. A student's success in that class is the single best predictor of college graduation. So why not start early?

Lately, there's been a big push for STEM education -- science, technology, engineering and math. Silicon Valley needs workers skilled in those fields.

"We shouldn't be dumbing down our education standards," said St. Sen. Bob Huff, R-Senate Minority Leader. He thinks deleting Algebra is a step backwards. "We have been left behind in the world when it comes to education standards. We will absolutely lose our place unless we keep a rigorous regime for California and this is definitely going in the wrong direction."

Supporters of changing the Algebra 1 requirements insist this doesn't mean less rigor, that it's always a good thing to have more uniformity and more consistency in student expectations.


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