Monday, February 12, 2024

Is algebra for 8th graders repugnant because it leads to calculus?

 The tide is shifting back towards teaching algebra in San Francisco middle schools.

The WSJ has the story:

In the Battle Over Early Algebra, Parents Are Winning. After schools prevented students from taking algebra before high school to reduce racial inequities, parents in San Francisco and Cambridge, Mass., pushed back. By Sara Randazzo

"San Francisco’s public school district set off a yearslong fight with parents when it decided to prevent students from taking algebra until high school, an attempt to combat racial inequities in math by waiting until more students were ready.

"Parents in favor of letting students start in middle school launched petitions, a ballot measure and a lawsuit, sparring with school officials over questions of equity and privilege.

"Now, it appears the parents who are pushing for eighth-grade algebra are winning.

"The San Francisco Unified School District said Friday that it would reverse its decade-old policy, a move that comes after a similar recent change by the school system in Cambridge, Mass., home to Harvard University.

"When to start students on algebra is a contentious topic because the subject is the gateway to a series of math classes culminating in calculus, which many see as crucial for STEM careers and selective college admissions. Students aspiring to take calculus before graduating have traditionally begun this sequence in eighth grade.

“A lot of the attention to eighth-grade algebra is based upon the feeling that that’s the point at which the race is won,” said Thurston Domina, an education professor at the University of North Carolina.

"In San Francisco, the district long argued that the policy of restricting algebra to high school wasn’t done to hold children back, but to reduce the inequities that result from sorting students by math ability at too young an age.
"Nationally, 48% of Asian students reach calculus before graduation, compared with 22% of white students, 14% of Latino students and 11% of Black students.
"Last year, California passed a new math framework that de-emphasizes early algebra access. Earlier drafts discouraged any eighth-grade algebra, citing the San Francisco school district’s policy as a more equitable approach. After hundreds of public comments and rounds of revisions, the final framework says students should accelerate in math if they are ready."
I'm reminded of the wisecrack that says that fundamentalists disapprove of pre-marital sex because it leads to dancing, and they don't like dancing.
In this case, education reformers disapproved of 8th grade algebra because it leads to calculus...

No comments: