Algebra will return to San Francisco middle schools, reports Jill Tucker in the San Francisco Chronicle. The school board's vote Tuesday night pre-empted a pro-algebra measure on the March 15 ballot. However, it will take three years to redesign middle-school math pathways and offer eighth-grade algebra classes in all schools.

"District officials pulled the course out of middle school 10 years ago, saying they wanted to delay tracking students into separate math sequences until high school," writes Tucker. They hoped more black and Hispanic students would qualify for advanced math classes.

For years, San Francisco Unified claimed "equity math" was improving minority students' success rates. The first draft of California's new math framework cited San Francisco's successful math reforms as its model. The final version eliminated the call to delay algebra till ninth grade.

Now, the district admits that algebra for none was a flop.

As critics had predicted, forcing students to wait till ninth grade to take algebra has reduced the number of students taking higher-level math courses in high school. Not everyone can go to summer school or take private courses to get on the algebra-to-calculus STEM track.

San Francisco will pilot three approaches to 8th-grade algebra in the one-third of schools that will offer classes in the fall.

The first will enroll all eighth graders, ready or not, in Algebra 1 with support in a math lab for those who need it. This seems like a sure loser to me: Some students are way below grade level.

The second and third are geared to students who test as proficient and those who don't but are motivated enough to try. Option 2 schools will offer a compression course which combines the current eighth-grade math course with Algebra 1. Option 3 students will take one period of eighth-grade math and another period of Algebra 1. I predict double math will not be popular.

If a student has NOT mastered the concept of adding, subtracting, multiplication, division, place value, and decimals/fractions, they are ABSOLUTELY NOT READY for ALGEBRA of any kind in middle or high school...period

"They hoped more black and Hispanic students would qualify for advanced math classes."

Not really. They tried to disguise the racially disparate impact of ability grouping with lies and misdirection.

Conventional schooling is a huge waste of time and taxpayers' money. Once a child has learned how to do this:

a = 7 3/10 - 2 3/4 => a = ___ (3rd or 4th grade, with proper instruction)

s/he is ready to start the material that we Algebra I (equations of the line in one- and two-space).

A well-scripted self-paced curriculum could get at least 25% of students through the undergrad Math curriculum by age 18.

Dumbing down middle school Math worked poorly? Who'd athunk it? Back when my senior elementary school's cafeteria was serving the last of the frozen dinoburgers, our 7th and 8th Grade Math was done with classes for three differing challenge levels. Someone realized that not challenging the more able would lead to boredom and less than desirable behavior consequences.

Moving topics to lower grades means being willing to tolerate higher failure rates, larger racial achievement gaps, and now in the 21st century, the failure of more boys than girls. Moving Algebra to middle school is good way to discourage more boys from pursuing STEM degrees and jobs in the future.

Even if the idea was a good one, changing over the entire metropolitan school system all at once is plain crazy. (Totalitarian) If a charter with a few hundred students tries an idea (good or bad) there's a chance to figure out which is what before it spreads.