California requires the passing of Algebra I (an 8th grade course, according to our state standards) as a requirement for graduation, in addition to getting 220 credits, passing 4 years of English and 2 years of math, the passing of the exit exam (Class of 2006 is the first, finally!), etc. The LA Times has written about how horrible it is that diplomas are being denied students whose only problem is the fact that they can't pass Algebra I by the time they're 17 or 18 years old. Joanne offers some more details and commentary, including what's done at Downtown College Prep in San Jose, which, not so coincidentally, is the subject of her book Our School. One of Joanne's commenters hits the nail on the head:
The header for this article reads in part, "Because they can't pass algebra, thousands of students are denied diplomas." It seems to me that the students who do not receive diplomas are not being "denied" said diplomas, but they in fact have failed to earn them. Failure to learn this lesson at an early age only reinforces an entitlement ethic and sets these young people up for failure and bitterness as they progress from high school to the working world. A diploma that means nothing is worth exactly the same, nothing.
The real problem isn't that the students can't pass algebra, it's that in some cases they haven't been prepared to pass algebra. Granted, some don't help themselves (like the girl who missed 62 out of 93 days in the semester), but a healthy share of the problem seems, to me, to be this observation:
At Cal State Northridge, the largest supplier of new teachers to Los Angeles Unified, 35% of future elementary school instructors earned Ds or Fs in their first college-level math class last year.Don't be so surprised. And the NEA and CTA want to keep American Board for the Certification of Teacher Excellence from providing alternative teacher credentialing here in California while keeping our state university programs in tact, focused on fuzzy, and patently irrelevant. Way to go, unions.
Some of these students had already taken remedial classes that reviewed high school algebra and geometry.
I'm a math teacher and I can write reasonably well, my spelling is rather exceptional, and my reading abilities are at a level at which I can comprehend college texts. A college graduate in any subject who cannot pass underclass high school math is unworthy of teaching our nation's children--and you can quote me on that.
Update: click here to see my latest post, and how it relates to this one. Appropriately enough, it's called When Are We Ever Gonna Have To Use This? And I answer the question. Kind of =)