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Judge blocks algebra requirement for California eighth-graders

December 19, 2008 |  1:50 pm

A judge has issued an injunction blocking the state from requiring all eighth-graders to take algebra.

Earlier this year, the state Board of Education had mandated eighth-grade algebra at the urging of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and some civil rights and education advocates.

Opponents of the rule included state Supt. of Instruction Jack O’Connell, the California Teachers Assn. and organizations representing school district leaders. They had argued that the state board exceeded its authority and that the board made the change without providing legally required public notice.

The groups had argued that more time and funding were needed to prepare all eighth-graders to succeed in algebra.

The judge’s injunction suggested that she was sympathetic to many of the arguments against the state board’s action.

In the Los Angeles Unified School District, more than half of eighth-graders, along with more than 2,000 seventh-graders, took algebra in 2007, but 21% of eighth-graders tested proficient. About two-thirds of those who failed the class passed on their second try.

At many low-performing campuses, the picture is more dire. At Gompers Middle School in Watts, for example, 30% of eighth-graders took algebra, and 15% of those scored proficient. Moreover, only 1% of students in general math, an easier course, tested proficient.

The state’s curriculum for eighth grade has long included algebra, and schools get penalized on their own report card, the state’s Academic Performance Index, for every eighth-grader who doesn’t take the algebra test.

-- Howard Blume