California will no longer require eighth-graders to take algebra – a move that is line with the Common Core standards being adopted by most states, but that may leave students unprepared for college.
Last month, California formally shifted to the Common Core mathematics standards, which recommend that students delay taking algebra if they aren’t ready for it. Previously, algebra class was a requirement for all eighth-graders in the state.
The Common Core State Standards Initiative, which is sponsored by the National Governor’s Association, is an effort to unify diverse state education curricula. Forty-five other states and the District of Columbia have signed on so far.
But some education experts worry that the change will further damage struggling students’ college chances, since early proficiency in Algebra I is an excellent predictor of college graduation, according to the Mercury News.
Black and Latino students in California are significantly more likely to fail eighth-grade algebra, and 80 percent of those who fail it once will fail it again when they take it in high school.
A study published by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area claims that some minority students who score well enough to place into advanced math classes are often mistakenly held back.
“School districts have been disproportionately requiring minority students to repeat Algebra I even after they scored proficient or advanced on the Algebra I California standardized tests,” said Kimberly Thomas Rapp, executive director of the committee, in an interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation.
The new standard is a step back for California, and may leave students, particularly minority and low-income students, unprepared for college, said Rapp.
“Back in ‘97 when the state went to a standard that expected students to take Algebra 1 in the eighth grade, that was really about looking forward to college competitiveness and preparing our public school students to be ready to compete to access college systems after high school,” she said. “The reality is what we’re now doing is lowering the standards.”
Instead, Rapp proposed that California schools improve the mathematics curriculum for students in the fifth, sixth and seventh grades, so that they are better prepared for Algebra I in eighth grade.
The Council of Chief State School Officers, which set the Common Core standards, did not respond to a request for comment.