THE RECENT action by the California Board of Education to mandate algebra competency for all eighth-graders in the state has taken educational policy making in the state to a new level of destructive stupidity. And the timing couldn’t have been more ironic, with the almost simultaneous release of a major study that shows that the state’s dropout rate is far higher than original figures indicated, more than 25 percent.
The action by the board was in response to urging from Gov. Arnold Schwarznegger. It was strongly opposed by Jack O’Connell, the state’s superintendent of education, math instructors from around the state, and by the California School Boards Association.
The letter from the governor was a collection of predictable clich s about setting our goals higher, maintaining leadership in a global economy, and requiring “an intense commitment and increased investment.”
In some ways it’s “same old same old.”
Yes, of course it would be good to have higher student math competency and of course assessment is important. But every piece of rational evidence we have suggests that this is a very bad idea.
First, we do not have nearly enough qualified math teachers, perhaps least of all on the middle school level.
The timing is also terrible. We are in the middle of a major budget crisis and there are no funds available to make an “increased investment,” to increase the number of math teachers or provide staff development to increase their competencies.