California Moves To Recommend Delaying Algebra To 9th Grade Statewide

California is in the process of approving new guidelines for math education in public schools that "pushes Algebra 1 back to 9th grade, de-emphasizes calculus, and applies social justice principles to math lessons," writes Joe Hong via the San Francisco Standard. The new approach would have been approved earlier this month but has been delayed due to the attention and controversy it has received. Here's an excerpt from the report: When Rebecca Pariso agreed to join a team of educators tasked in late 2019 with California's new mathematics framework, she said she expected some controversy. But she didn't expect her work would be in the national spotlight. [...] Every eight years (PDF), a group of educators comes together to update the state's math curriculum framework. This particular update has attracted extra attention, and controversy, because of perceived changes it makes to how "gifted" students progress -- and because it pushes Algebra 1 back to 9th grade, de-emphasizes calculus, and applies social justice principles to math lessons. San Francisco pioneered key aspects of the new approach, opting in 2014 to delay algebra instruction until 9th grade and to push advanced mathematics courses until at least after 10th grade as a means of promoting equity. San Francisco Unified School District touted the effort as a success, asserting that algebra failure rates fell and the number of students taking advanced math rose as a result of the change. The California Department of Education cited those results in drafting the statewide framework. But critics have accused the district of using cherry-picked and misleading assertions to bolster the case for the changes. The intent of the state mathematics framework, its designers say, is to maintain rigor while also helping remedy California's achievement gaps for Black, Latino and low-income students, which remain some of the largest in the nation. At the heart of the wrangling lies a broad agreement about at least one thing: The way California public schools teach math isn't working. On national standardized tests, California ranks in the bottom quartile among all states and U.S. territories for 8th grade math scores. Yet for all the sound and fury, the proposed framework, about 800-pages long, is little more than a set of suggestions. Its designers are revising it now and will subject it to 60 more days of public review. Once it's approved in July, districts may adopt as much or as little of the framework as they choose -- and can disregard it completely without any penalty. "It's not mandated that you use the framework," said framework team member Dianne Wilson, a program specialist at Elk Grove Unified. "There's a concern that it will be implemented unequally."

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