Monday, September 17, 2012

Common Core and Algebra in 8th Grade

Eighth Grade Algebra seems to be the elephant in the room with Common Core State Standards and there has not been a real clear way on how to handle this. I have spoken with district and state curriculum directors and they are still waiting to decide exactly how to ensure the option is there and that they meet common core standards and assessments.

The problem: 8th grade algebra has long been the standard for students going to college. It puts them on track to complete pre-calculus or AP calculus in their senior year maximizing their college transcript.  Common Core State Standards does not have specific guidance on 8th grade algebra but introduces algebra concepts throughout middle school.

Now the discussion is heating up with SB1200 in California. This bill ensures that California uses CCSS and eliminates any redundant standards. People are interpreting this to mean that SB1200 does away with California's requirement that all students take algebra in the 8th grade. Note - that in the link above "people" refers to Bill Evers who is a rabid - and I mean rabid - opponent of CCSS.

So Evers complains that SB1200 will ruin the California's stellar performance in math - let's look at the NAEP results on CDE's website:

  • In 2011, Black students had an average score that was 36 points lower than White students. This performance gap was not significantly different from that in 1990 (38 points)
  • In 2011, Hispanic students had an average score that was 30 points lower than White students. This performance gap was not significantly different from that in 1990 (34 points)
  • In 2011, students who were eligible for free/reduced-price school lunch, an indicator of low family income, had an average score that was 29 points lower than students who were not eligible for free/reduced-price school lunch. This performance gap was not significantly different from that in 1996 (30 points). 
In 1990 California was 6 points below the national average and today they are 10 points below the national average.  I don't think I would use California's math performance as an indicator.

Nowhere in SB1200 does it say ANYTHING about eliminating algebra in the 8th grade - this is your typical sky is falling alarmist rhetoric to undermine common core implementation. HOWEVER - it is time to get a framework from Common Core advocates on how to ensure that those wishing to move to to AP Calculus by starting Algebra early can do so and know that it fits into the testing parameters of PARCC and Smarter Balance.