ERIC Number: EJ857677
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Mar
Reference Count: 0
The Great Debate: Should All 8th Graders Take Algebra?
Education Digest: Essential Readings Condensed for Quick Review, v74 n7 p62-64 Mar 2009
While 8th grade algebra was once reserved as a course for the gifted, today, more U.S. 8th graders take algebra than any other math course. This article discusses a report from the Brookings Institution which chronicles the history of the 8th-grade algebra surge and its impact on today's low-performing students. The report indicates that many of the nation's lowest-performing middle schoolers are taking algebra before they have even mastered the basic skills--fractions, decimals, and percentages. More than a third of 8th graders were enrolled in an advanced math course (algebra, geometry, and algebra II) last year, fueled by a nationwide push to encourage more rigorous math courses at the middle level. With data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), Brookings Institution researcher Tom Loveless found that between 2000 and 2005, the percentage of very low-performing middle-level students in advanced math classes more than tripled, and among the lowest-scoring 10% of kids, nearly a third were taking advanced math. Although it is proven that prepared students benefit from taking more algebra early on, unprepared students are not garnering the same benefits. While democratizing advanced math classes "arose from good intentions," the report concludes, "no social benefit is produced by placing students in classes for which they are unprepared."
Descriptors: National Competency Tests, Grade 8, Algebra, Secondary School Mathematics, Mathematics Instruction, Mathematics Achievement, Mathematics Skills, College Preparation
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Grade 8
Authoring Institution: N/A