In three years, all California eighth-graders will be tested on algebra. Pushed by the governor, the state board of education voted 8-1 to enforce the long-standing eighth-grade algebra standard with an algebra test. No Child Left Behind forced the state to end the practice of letting some eighth-graders take an easier math test covering sixth- and seventh-grade skills.
The decision means that an intense ramp-up period is about to begin, as the state scrambles to hire and train more algebra teachers, align curriculum and get young students ready for more rigorous course work.
In essence, remedial math will be pushed into sixth and seventh grade. That’s better than waiting for high school to get serious about getting students caught up in math skills. Those who learn algebra in middle school will be able to take advanced math and science in high school.
Currently, 52 percent of eighth-graders take algebra, though many do so poorly they have to take it again in ninth grade. Before eighth-grade algebra became a state standard, only 16 percent of students took the course in middle school.