Recent Orange County Letters on 8th Grade Algebra

There’s been some debate in the Orange County Register over requiring 8th grade students to take algebra.

Taking algebra in 7th grade, in the 1960s
Editorial claiming the standard needs to be rethought and a push for a “market-based” education system
Letter claiming students rushing to AP actually have weaker skills

I mainly just wanted to link, but a couple comments:

1. Comparisons with curriculum from the 50s and 60s tend to be bogus. Much of the material taught in college in the 50s has been pushed into high school, even though all the names of courses have stayed the same. (This particular letter doesn’t fall in that category, but I do wonder what they thought “algebra” was in that class. I suspect it was more along the lines of pre-algebra, which really is just algebra with less complicated problems.)

2. Charter schools have proliferated in such number in Arizona that we *do* have a market-based system now. Our district has a newfound urgency in keeping students. I don’t know the exact situation in California, where last I heard due to the real estate market it exploded or something.

3. I find the last claim interesting, even if it is anecdotal. There’s been enough research for “Algebra for All” at the 9th grade level to convince me it indeed should be mandated, but I haven’t heard what has happened with equivalent research at the 8th grade level.

4. International comparisons regarding test score statistics tend to be only vaguely accurate, especially when comparing countries that have tracking with countries that do not have tracking. When the “lower cream” of students isn’t counted at all, that can have an enormous impact on scores.

Article from Haaretz Newspaper in Israel

How is it possible that 43 years ago Israel starred in first place in international studies of students’ achievements in mathematics but in recent decades ranks in the middle? The answer is simple and unpleasant: apparently, there never was any such thing as an international rank.

One of the important factors that must be taken into consideration in all sorts of international research studies is the quality of the sample, that is the extent to which it represents the population. In the celebrated 1964 study, Arab schools were not included. In that year, Arabs constituted 11 percent of the population. Moreover, the representation of the Jewish population is also dubious. It turns out that each of the countries in this study was given the opportunity to eliminate a part of the sample for various reasons.

I finally would like to apologize I still haven’t got back to regular posting, but a new project came up. I will be in California next week and all I can say right now it is very School 2.0-ish. I’ll write more when I’m able.


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