Most middle schools offer eighth-grade algebra to high achievers, according to a new RAND survey, reports Kalyn Belsha on Chalkbeat. Only 20 percent of principals say any student can take algebra in eighth grade.
"Algebra is often considered a gateway class," she writes. "Eighth graders who take the course can more easily reach calculus by 12th grade — which can set students up for challenging math classes in college and career paths in science and engineering fields."
California, which once made eighth-grade algebra the norm, has adopted new math guidelines calling for schools to delay algebra until ninth grade to avoid tracking.
More than 40 percent of elementary teachers group students based on their math level, principals reported. Nearly 70 percent of middle schools place students in "honors" or basic math classes.
Many schools offer math tutoring or other supports, said Julia Kaufman, a senior policy researcher at RAND, and the lead author of the report. However, most middle-school principals say that few struggling students participate in tutoring or summer math programs. If tutoring is mostly offered to kids and parents who volunteer, she said, “then the tutoring is not going to reach the kids who need it the most.”