There is a debate brewing in Texas asking is Algebra II is right for every student.  Some educators have indicated that Algebra II may not be the right choice for some students.  They’ve gone so far as to say that some students drop out of school as a result of the Algebra II requirement.

The math class of exponents and imaginary numbers — and a potential predictor of a student’s success in college and in life — has become a key point of contention as the Texas Legislature grapples with overhauling high school graduation requirements statewide.

Several bills before lawmakers would tweak graduation rules to give students more options in career training and vocational skills, thus aiming to help them land well-paying technical jobs that don’t necessarily require college degrees. Thus the debate asking is algebra II right for every student?

But that could mean no longer requiring Algebra II for all students, something opponents say will ultimately produce future Texans who are less prepared for the workforce of the future — not more so.

The most high-profile proposal has come from Houston Republican Dan Patrick, who chairs the state Senate Education Committee. His Senate Bill 3 has been endorsed by more than a dozen industry trade groups concerned about a “skills gap” between Texas high school graduates and the technical jobs firms need to fill. And, that leaves even more questioning is Algebra II right for every student?

Others in the business community, though, fear watering down academic standards, especially since the bill may no longer require all students to take Algebra II.

“Not all students are going to need Algebra II, but we need a lot more than are taking it now,” said Justin Yancy, executive director of the Texas Business Leadership Council. Although Yancy said he didn’t want to be critical of efforts to give high school students more curriculum flexibility, he said “the data shows we’ve gotten less educated with each passing decade as a state.”

“That’s not a trend we are going to reverse by lowering expectations,” he said.

Current Texas law requires high school students to take Algebra II and to undergo standardized testing in it. That means answering questions such as: “A monthly cell phone plan charges $5 for the first 300 text messages used and $0.15 for each additional message. On this plan, what is the number of text messages that must be used in a month in order to make the average cost per message $0.05?” (Answer: 400)

That kind of academic rigor has made Texas a leader nationwide in college and career readiness, but now that’s in jeopardy, said Michael Cohen, president of Achieve, a Washington-based nonprofit dedicated to strengthening academic standards nationwide.

Cohen said he understands that “people worry that if you make kids take more rigorous math, then you’ll lose them.” But he also asked: “What kind of technical training doesn’t require some kind of advanced mathematics?”

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