Algebra in the News

Algebra made news on both coasts this week. Check out education writer Nelson Hernandez's story today on the front page of the Washington Post, showing that 1 out of 6 high school seniors in Marlyand have not yet reached minimum scores on four tests newly required for graduation. The exams are in algebra, biology, government and English.

In Baltimore, one in four seniors are at risk of not graduating. The Baltimore Sun reported that the pass rate for all high school students in algebra was 32 percent, the lowest of the four tests.

Out west, a California Superior Court judge put a hold on the state's first-in-the-nation plan to test all 8th-graders in algebra. School board members and school administrators across the state are challenging the July decision in a lawsuit. A hearing is set for December.

The Sacramento Bee reports that about half of California's eighth-graders take algebra, up from 34 percent four years ago. Only a quarter of those already taking the class score proficient or above on standardized tests. The question every one's asking is,,,Are they ready?

By Michael Alison Chandler  |  October 29, 2008; 11:16 AM ET  | Category:  Math Resources
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Having been one of those 8th grade algebra teachers, only 25% being 'proficient' has historically correlated to the number of students in my class earning high 'B's or 'A's. Since the California Standards Test (CST) is criterion referenced vs. norm referenced (hallelujah!), students scoring 'Proficient' or 'Advanced' tend to be students who score 80 to 90% or higher on my summative tests.

Will 70-80% of your students get 'A's or 'B's' on your tests? Probably not. If you teach an urban demographic you're going to have a large percentage of students in your algebra 1 class who have no business being there, which further impacts your CST results.

If we don't let people fly F-16s who can't fly Cessna turboprops, nor should we let students in an Algebra class who can't divide 3 by 6 and get 1/2.

Posted by: pdfordiii | October 29, 2008 7:52 PM | Report abuse

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