Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mandatory Algebra without Preparation = Fail

To the surprise of no one (I hope), two new studies point to the fact that just mandating Algebra I in eighth does not create success for students who are not prepared for Algebra I.  Both California and North Carolina pushed for earlier Algebra I and both are seeing negative results according to an Edweek article: Study Questions Value of Early Algebra Lessons

"the Duke researchers found that even moderately math-proficient students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg who were put into early-algebra classes performed significantly worse on state end-of-year math tests. Moreover, initially low-performing students who took Algebra 1 in 8th grade were significantly less likely to take more-advanced math courses, such as Algebra 2 or geometry, later."

There are always unintended consequences of mandates without in-depth planning. There needs to be significant improvement in math instruction in order for these efforts to succeed.  LTF Math Training ensures that scaffolded lessons are introduced starting in 6th grade to ensure more students are ready for 8th grade algebra. LTF training ensures that all middle school math teachers thoroughly understand the content and pedagogy required to get these students ready. Math teachers are given the inquiry based lessons to use in their classroom after the training.

Mandatory 8th grade algebra only works if all middle school teachers have the training and resources necessary to ensure all students are ready.