Algebra II is becoming a required course in a growing number of high schools, reports the Washington Post.
Of all of the classes offered in high school, Algebra II is the leading predictor of college and work success, according to research that has launched a growing national movement to require it of graduates.
In recent years, 20 states and the District have moved to raise graduation requirements to include Algebra II, and its complexities are being demanded of more and more students.
In Arkansas, which now requires Algebra II for most graduates, only 13 percent of students passed a rigorous end-of-course exam.
“All those numbers and letters, it’s like another language, like hieroglyphics,” said Tiffany Woodle, a Conway High School student and an aspiring beauty salon owner. “It obviously says something. I’m just not sure what, sometimes.”
As part of its push for higher standards to prepare students for college, Achieve has promoted Algebra II. The skills learned in the course are needed for college and in the workplace, the group claims.
But Georgetown’s Anthony Carnevale, one of the researchers who reported the link between Algebra II and good jobs, says that just because taking the class correlates with success doesn’t mean that it causes success.
“The causal relationship is very, very weak,” he said. “Most people don’t use Algebra II in college, let alone in real life. The state governments need to be careful with this.”
The danger, he said, is leaving some kids behind by “getting locked into a one-size-fits-all curriculum.”
Does Tiffany really need advanced algebra to run a beauty salon?
Economist Russ Roberts, who’s married to a math teacher, warns of a one-fad-fits-all mandate on Cafe Hayek.