If an 8th grader anywhere in California walks into a classroom at 1.5 miles an hour to solve a quadratic equation, what are the chances that she will get into a top-tier university?
The answer: Much better than if the student is a 9th grader.
Turns out the State Board of Education is dropping standards expecting all eighth graders to take Algebra I. And the decision, made last month, is causing some controversy among educators because “Algebra I is the single best predictor of college graduation.”
From now on, students can choose between the more rigorous Algebra I, or an alternate course that contains some Algebra but is more in line with the Common Core curriculum that’s been adopted by the state.
Supporters said it reflects the reality that most middle school students simply aren’t ready for Algebra I. If pushed too soon, they are being set up for failure.
But critics argue delaying the math class leaves college-bound students behind because most competitive universities expect applicants to take Calculus in the 12th grade. So university-bound students who don't take algebra in 8th grade would have to figure out how to cram Geometry, Algebra II and Trigonometry during sophomore and junior years.
There’s also a race factor: Recent studies in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties found that “some schools are not placing black and Latino students in advanced math courses even when they're prepared.”
What do you think of the change in curriculum? Is relaxing the math standards for 8th graders equal to lowered expectations?