It’s time to get a little more creative in coming up with solutions for our algebra problem. A school district in Florida has started screening eighth grade students to determine if they are prepared to take algebra. Improved teacher training includes tips on connecting algebra to the real world. Another school in California improved algebra scores with the use of technology.
Algebra I has long served as a gateway to higherlevel math courses and science courses, such as physics, and has been required for high school graduation as well as admission to most colleges. But taking algebra also can turn into a pathway for failure, from which some students never recover. In 2010, a national U.S. Department of Education study found that 80 percent of high school dropouts cited their inability to pass Algebra I as the primary reason for leaving school.
What’s more, failure to pass state algebra assessments is a more frequent problem for minority students and contributes to a serious achievement gap in math. In the 2012 results of the California Standards Test (CST) in Algebra I, for instance, just 39 percent of Hispanic eighth graders scored proficient or advanced, as did 20 percent of Hispanic ninth graders. The results for African American students in the two grades were 32 percent and 16 percent, respectively. In contrast, white students tested at 60 and 34 percent proficiency or better.