Florida and Texas passed laws no longer requiring proficiency in Algebra 2 in order to graduate. Based on a recent federal report roughly one quarter of all high school students do not take Algebra 2 or its equivalent, however those fundamental math skills are needed to pursue STEM careers.
Not every Algebra Class is the Same
States that haven't dropped Algrebra 2 as a requirement face another problem, not all Algebra 2 classes are the same, courses vary from state to state.
"There is not now and hasn't ever been a consistent definition of Algebra 2, not when you look closely at it," said Michael Cohen, president of Achieve, a Washington-based group that helped develop common core standards. “The Label, in some sense, is the wrong thing to focus on.”
Cohen hopes changing the standards will foster more creativity for Algebra 2 as well as other math courses to better engage students and create a more standard version of each math class.
Common Core Changing Algebra Classes…
Common Core does not require any specific courses be taught per se. It does require students to know, and master certain skills by the time they graduate. This includes: Algebra, Geometry, Probability and Statistics. There are also more advanced standards (“plus standards”) for students who plan to pursue a STEM major in college.
"Some of the stuff they have to do with polynomials—the remainder and factor theorems, rational roots theorem, using polynomial identities—these are not things we have normally done in Algebra 2 class," said Cliff Bara, a math and science teacher at Troy Junior and Senior High school in Troy, Mont.
Bara recognizes that algebra 2 is a benefit all students, he wouldn’t say it should be a requirement:
"To actually say every kid in my state is going to complete Algebra 2, I think that's setting some folks up for disaster. There is a subset of students for whom that is either an unreasonable expectation or it's just not necessary."
Algebra 2 is Still Needed
Algebra 2 also has its defenders.
"Just because some community colleges' standards are low doesn't mean that we should lower high school standards," writes Linda Rosen, who leads the advocacy group Change the Equation, in a Huffington Post piece last month.
Rosen says that if states don’t require Algebra 2, poor and minority students will be steered into less-demanding courses.
"If you start throwing away Algebra 2 because you can't see [people] using it on the job or in going to college, then the question is: How do they get this other set of skills?" such as analyzing, problem-solving, and reasoning. "These are skills we tend to give people through math,” said Anthony P. Carnevale, Director of the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University.
Tell us what you think: should Algebra 2 continue to be a requirement? Or should schools drop it?
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