Problem Solved? 8th Grade Math Curriculum May Change in Palo Alto

The State Board of Education cut Algebra I standards from the state’s eighth grade math requirements.

An ambitious effort to better prepare students for college is now just a footnote in history books after the State Board of Education eliminated Algebra I standards for eighth graders.

The controversial plan required school districts to teach Algebra I in middle school, a mathematics course that most other states offer to high schoolers, according to NBC 4 News.

But the State Board of Education dumped the Algebra 1 requirement, favoring standards that will mirror the national Common Core standards, EdSource reported. That means no more Algebra I for eighth graders, though there are plans to develop accelerated courses of study for students who have the skills to comprehend the Algebra I curriculum.

Many families move to Palo Alto for the superior public schools. Nearly 90 percent of eighth graders in the Palo Alto Unified School district took Algebra I during the 2011-12 school year. Of those 837 eighth graders, 51 percent rated "advanced" in STAR test results and 19 percent were "proficient."

Michael Milliken, Ph.D, is the Director of Curriculum for Secondary Education for PAUSD. He is emphatic about retaining the high quality of education here, "We have no plans to change our course offerings in math. We will wait for the California Department of Education to develop math frameworks (expected this November), and we will use them to inform our course content and offerings. As I understand it, the new frameworks will provide for accelerated options, so I don't believe that there is a danger of CA state standards negatively affecting our curriculum."

The state launched Algebra I for middle school sutdents 15 years ago to put students on a path to take Calculus as high school seniors, according to this Mercury News report. The advanced math study is encouraged for college-bound students and expected by high-level universities.

While more students enrolled in Algebra I as eighth graders, there have been concerns about students in other districts struggling with the curriculum. The standards require students to keep retaking the course until they pass.

Complicating the matter was a move by the state two years ago that created two sets of middle school math standards. Federal No Child Left Behind statues don't allow for dueling curriculum.

The new eighth grade math course will be more rigorous than a general pre-algebra class but not as complex as Algebra I, Tom Adams, head of California's curriculum framework and instructional resources, told NBC 4 News.

"According to a CA Dept. of Ed timeline that came out in October 2012, the new math frameworks (outlining the recommended content and options) are scheduled to be released in November 2013," said Dr. Milliken. "So 2014-15 would be the soonest that a district could act on them in terms of offering a new course."


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