Rather than following in step with other states, critics say, California should be looking to keep up with India, Singapore and Europe. Compared with their peers in Europe and Asia, U.S. students are two to 2½ years behind in math; California students are 1½ years behind, said James Milgram, professor emeritus of math at Stanford University, who will help determine the new national standards.
Milgram doesn’t think California should adopt what he says will be weaker standards. Neither does Ze’ev Wurman, a Palo Alto high-tech executive and former adviser to the U.S. Department of Education.
“Essentially we are giving up on the hope of teaching algebra in the eighth grade,” he said. He charges the proposed standards set the bar too low for college readiness.
However, Professor Hung-Hsi Wu of UC Berkeley, who worked on the proposed standards, believes California’s algebra-by-eighth-grade requirement — often ignored by schools — has not improved achievement. The new proposal “spells out a more reasonable way to approach mathematics education,” he said.
California’s math standards are highly rated, but many students don’t come close to reaching them.