To the Editor:
In response to “Ohio Students Face Tougher Standards” (Jan. 10, 2007):
Outgoing Gov. Bob Taft of Ohio signed an “Ohio Core” law requiring the completion of four years of math (including Algebra 2) for students to graduate, starting with the class of 2014. This past month, the Oregon state board of education also set tougher state standards, including three years of math—Algebra 1, geometry, and Algebra 2—starting with the class of 2012. Other states are bound to join this movement.
As a former algebra teacher, I worry about the impact of making Algebra 2 a graduation requirement. Mandating that every high school student pass Algebra 2 does not make it come true. What is true is that math-challenged students may declare defeat and drop out. Or school personnel, eager to keep students in school, may water down coursework so that more students can succeed. How will that affect college-bound students who need rigorous higher-level math?
Math is a cumulative subject; effective preparation for algebra must begin early. Yet middle school teachers with elementary credentials may not be able to teach advanced math classes. Do “educrats” know what is taught in Algebra 2 and the consequences of imposing college-preparatory math on everyone?
My Algebra 1 students often asked, “Why do we have to learn this stuff?” I explained that algebra is the foundation for college-preparatory math and science coursework. Studying algebra and the higher-level courses keeps their options open for college. My college- bound students understood that, and their classmates could either earn diplomas without those courses or take them later at community colleges. Are we now prepared to deny these students high school diplomas? I see the road ahead strewn with the children left behind.
Betty Raskoff Kazmin
A version of this article appeared in the February 07, 2007 edition of Education Week as New Math Requirements Will Have Repercussions