Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota's governor, wants to make Algebra 1 an 8th grade requirement, and Algebra 2 a high school graduation requirement. Teachers complain that they will need more training in math instruction. (The same teachers who say they don't learn anything useful in education classes, I presume.) They also say it will take more support from parents.
“The rigor has to start in the elementary schools and carry through to the middle schools or they will not be ready for algebra by eighth grade,” said Mary Hoffman, an Algebra 1 teacher at Apple Valley Falcon Ridge Middle School. “And rigor includes studying at home and parental support.”The new math standards will be implemented, at the earliest, in the 2008-09 school year, according to state education Commissioner Alice Seagren.
What can I say? I'm cynical as usual. I'm all for improved standards and stronger requirements. But over the years, it has been evident that moving courses down in the grades makes them weaker, especially if they are required of all students. Already students who take Algebra II and Geometry do not compare with students who took these courses 30 years ago. In those days, calculus was rarely an option, now many schools have it. But are the students learning more, or are they already working at maximum capacity and just taking more courses and "covering" more material without actually learning more?