Who decides who takes Algebra 2?

High schools shouldn’t require all students to take Algebra 2, write Robert Lerman and Arnold Packer in an Education Week commentary. Most won’t need it and could use the time better in career-tech classes matched to their interests and aspirations.

On Curriculum Matters, Catherine Gewertz asks: Should All Students Take Algebra 2? Who Should Decide?

“Very few young teenagers have a clear enough idea of their pathway at that age to select math courses wisely,” she writes.  They rely on adults.

Kids who don’t have the good fortune to have engaged, educated parents are at the mercy of their teachers’ and counselors’ expectations — and the quality of their particular schools’ courses and teachers — when course-signup time rolls around.

. . .  Just as those who advocate raising the bar for all kids need a plan for getting even the most disadvantaged kids over that bar, those who advocate allowing students to take a less-rigorous curriculum if they choose must have a plan that ensures they will still have a multitude of good career or college choices open to them when they are finally mature enough to make those choices.

Many students slide through allegedly college-prep classes without actually mastering the reading, writing and, especially, math skills they’re supposed to have learned. Teachers are pressured to pass weak students so they can earn a diploma. The student who sits through Algebra 2 in a daze and gets pushed out with a D would be better off in a class on essential math skills needed to avoid remedial classes in community college.

POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs ON April 28, 2010

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In my district we don’t even offer “consumer math” and the like. It’s not in California’s standards.

John Robinson

I am principal of a redesign high school that requires all students to take Algebra 2. Our mission as a school is to get students ready for college and career, and as a part of that we make sure all our students have college as an option. In preparing students for a future we can’t yet see, it is dangerous to immediately dismiss any content area as not needed.


Yep. Schools take a massive hit in API (or some metric) if they don’t test their kids for Algebra or higher.

Algebra II is a brutal course, taught to standards.

But if teachers are allowed (or even required) to pass kids onto the next class even if they haven’t mastered the skills, then this is what will happen.

Remember, though, that if we only allow those who have the ability to take AII, the performance gap will rear its head.

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