Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ready or Not, Here Comes Algebra

Pushing into algebra kids who aren't ready shouldn't make any sense:
Mastering algebra is widely considered the gateway to higher mathematics and college readiness, but new studies question whether low-performing students benefit from exposure to the subject in middle school.

Separate studies of urban middle schoolers in California and in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., schools suggest that placing struggling math students in algebra class does not improve their test performance on state math tests, and significantly hurts their grade point averages and the likelihood of their taking and passing higher math courses in high school.
There's much more at the link.


Jean said...

How is that a surprise?

Putting unprepared kids into algebra early because other kids were taking it early and succeeding in college is just like all those other misguided efforts that mistook an effect for a cause. People who own homes are more stable, so let's make banks give mortgages to people who can't afford them, and it will make them stable too. People who went to college are more successful in life, so let's make everyone go to college and then they'll all be successful. Utterly backwards!

momof4 said...

The ed world is incapable of distinguishing correlation from causation. The push for 8th-grade algebra originated, in the 80s, from data showing that kids who took 8th-grade algebra did better in HS and beyond than those who didn't. Ignored in the 8th-grade-algebra-for-all hullaballoo was the fact that 8th grade algebra was then honors-only, taken by only those kids at the top of the academic pile. Of course, high-ability, well-prepared, motivated kids did better; they were fundamentally different from kids not taking the class. The same correlation existed for Latin, debate, AP classes etc.; the classes didn't cause success, they were composed of highly successful students. The ed world is continuously looking for the miracle cure, which doesn't exist.