All Michigan high school students are expected to learn algebra, even if they enter ninth grade without basic math skills. The remedial track is being eliminated, reports the Detroit Free Press.
But many educators now say that in the changing economy, where low-skills jobs are disappearing, schools don’t have the luxury of going slow. All students, they say, must take rigorous classes in high school to prepare them for postsecondary work, whether it be a one-year certificate program, a two-year community college or a four-year university.
“If you’re putting them into a course that goes a little slower and easier and where the expectations are a little less, obviously every year they fall a little bit behind,” said Mike Yocum, director of learning services at Oakland Schools, the county’s intermediate school district.
Struggling students need extra help.
“The fact is that many of those kids don’t know their multiplication tables, don’t know their basic mathematical operations. Unless you make some provision for them to cross the bridge between what they know and what they’re supposed to know, it’s not going to work,” said David Plank, codirector of the Education Policy Institute at Michigan State University.
“Unless you’re willing to invest the time in catching them up, then this is just a recipe for further failure,” Plank said.
At Downtown College Prep, the charter school my book is about, all ninth graders take college-prep English and algebra; many also take Verbal Reasoning (remedial reading) and Numeracy. And most Numeracy students don’t pass algebra till their second (summer school), third (10th grade) or fourth (summer school) try.