Algebra II for Everyone?

By Liana Loewus — April 05, 2011 1 min read
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New research shows that Algebra II, above any other high school class, is the “leading predictor of college and work success"—and many states are consequently beginning to make it a requirement for graduation, reports The Washington Post.

One study, by Anthony Carnevale and Alice Desrochers at the Educational Testing Service, found that “of those who held top-tier jobs, 84 percent had taken Algebra II or a higher class as their last high school math course. Only 50 percent of employees in the bottom tier had taken Algebra II.”

Achieve, a nonprofit education group organized by governors and business leaders, also found that professors and employers believe that the skills learned in Algebra II are necessary for success. The group is now leading the push for Algebra II graduation requirements, which 20 states and the District of Columbia have recently considered, writes the Post.

But the research, overall, is inconclusive. According to the Post, “whether learning Algebra II causes students to fare better in life, or whether it is merely correlated with them doing better—because smart, motivated kids take Algebra II—isn’t clear. Meanwhile, some worry that Algebra II requirements are leading some young people to quit school.”

Even Carnevale, one of the researchers, is skeptical of making hasty curriculum changes based on the studies. “The causal relationship is very, very weak,” he said. “Most people don’t use Algebra II in college, let alone in real life.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.