State Board eliminates incentives to offer Algebra in 8th grade

Source: 2011 EdSource study “Improving Middle Grades Mathematics Performance.”

From 2003-10, the number of eighth graders who took Algebra I nearly doubled in California, and the percentage that rated proficient on the state Algebra test actually increased from 39 to 46 percent overall.

The State Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday to remove state incentives encouraging schools to offer Algebra I in 8th grade.

The move was both a vote of confidence in the new Common Core standards for 8th grade, which districts are now beginning to implement, and a retreat from a decade-old policy of pushing universal algebra in 8th grade. Proponents of the state’s current policy are predicting that enrollment in Algebra by 8th grade, which has doubled over the past decade to nearly two-thirds of students, will plummet in coming years.

Under the current policy, students who take General Math in 8th grade, the less rigorous alternative to Algebra, are penalized on the results of their state standardized math test. If they test at the advanced level in General Math, their scores are knocked down one level to proficient, while those who test proficient are rated with only having basic knowledge. This, in turn, affects the school’s Academic Performance Index or API score, the  state’s chief and most recognizable measure of accountability. The penalties were a big reason districts pushed students to take Algebra.

The State Board’s new goal is to create guidelines that lay out two paths for math in 8th grade, one leading to a course based on Common Core 8th grade standards, which is basically pre-Algebra, and an accelerated route leading to a new, as yet, undesigned Common Core Algebra I course. Local districts will decide which students are ready for Algebra; the State Board’s position is to be neutral. Board members have expressed confidence that students who take Common Core 8th grade math will be well-prepared to take Algebra I or a new alternative, an Integrated Common Core high school course, as freshmen in high school. Then they can proceed to higher math, including Algebra II and pre-Calculus, qualifying them for admission to the California State University or University of California by their senior year.

“The decision by a former state board to create penalties and incentives for students to take algebra was probably wrong-headed. The decision about where students are placed for purposes of mathematics should be made at the local level not state level,” said Sue Burr, the former executive director of the State Board and now its newest board member.

Board members noted that Common Core 8th grade math is more rigorous than the current General Math, which does not include pre-Algebra. Removing the penalties on the API will enable districts to ease the transition to Common Core; districts won’t feel pressure to skip from seventh grade Common Core to Algebra.

However, Doug McRae, a retired test publisher from Monterey who has written frequently on the issue in EdSource Today, said that districts will no longer feel any urgency to offer Algebra I, and, as a result, fewer students will be on a path to take Calculus in high school and major in science, engineering and math in college.

“You are lowering standards for those kids who are capable of taking a full algebra course,” McRae said during the public comment period.

Board member Trish Williams expressed the ambivalence shared by others on the issue. In her former role as executive director of EdSource, she directed a study of middle school math that documented impressive numbers of 8th graders, particularly minority students, who took Algebra in eighth grade and did well on the state Algebra test. But the study also concluded that substantial numbers of students were misassigned and were taking it twice and even three times without success. Only 40 percent of African American and Hispanic students are scoring proficient on the Algebra exam – an improvement over a decade ago, but troubling nonetheless.

The increase in minority students taking Algebra “is not insignificant. It was a big advantage for those kids,” she said. “Social justice advocates worry that if pressure is not on then schools will revert and not prepare low-income kids. I hear that and I respect it, and I honor it.”

“It is important that the Board send a signal to schools that we want them to continue to keep open opportunities for low-income kids,” she said.

The Board’s policy to encourage more students to take Algebra was done, she said, with “good intentions.” But the “collateral damage” – too many unprepared students required to take Algebra – is why she said she would vote to change the policy.


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32 Responses to “State Board eliminates incentives to offer Algebra in 8th grade”

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  1. Paul on Mar 20, 2013 at 9:18 am03/20/2013 9:18 am

    • 000

    Doug, thanks for your comment. I think I understand better the source of people’s concern. But, if it comes down to “human nature”, I’d definitely place it in the irrational fear category.

    As a math teacher with a solid education and a professional background that involves using math outside the K-12 world, I do wonder whose “human nature” we are worried about.

    In my experience,

    * The human nature of parents is to request algebra for their children at any cost, even if the children have a record of poor performance in math. That nature won’t change, and those parents will continue to have the ear of teachers, principals, district leaders and school boards. The parental pressure I’ve encountered over grades and placement — in both low- and high-performance schools — is tremendous. Most school district employees bow to the pressure, in my experience. In some cases it’s a matter of real fear (parents never hesitate to escalate, the growing army of temporary teachers serves at the pleasure of school districts, and even permanent teachers can be punished with bad future assignments, mandatory transfers, hostile work environments, and so on). In other cases, it’s a time-saving strategy (say yes and get on with the real work of educating students).

    * The human nature of teachers is to celebrate advanced students and move them on to better placements, with the caveat that we are somewhat conservative. In my experience, when faced with borderline cases AND given a choice [I really can’t think of any districts in my area that did not practice social promotion and place all 8th-graders in algebra], teachers say, better an A or B in Grade 8 math (with plenty of time to meet college requirements in high school, as has been pointed out over and over again) than a C or D in Grade 8 algebra. Here again, nothing changes under the state’s decision.

    * The human nature of principals is to do what looks good, which usually means bowing to parent pressure, letting too many students into advanced math courses, and trumpeting “inclusionary” politics when average test scores decline as a result. No change here.

    * The human nature of school district officials is to choose the cheapest course of action. We agree that middle school algebra doesn’t alter operating costs or aggregate capital costs for school districts.

    Hearing another person say that Grade 8 algebra was right for about half of students — in other words, not for all — is refreshing.


    • Doug McRae on Mar 20, 2013 at 12:21 pm03/20/2013 12:21 pm

      • 000

      Paul: Well, we may have to agree to disagree on the effect of “human nature” on middle school placement decisions for algebra. In Sacto, the rhetoric was that the API “penalty” or discounted credit for Gen Math placements was the culprit for too many kids not-yet-ready for algebra being placed into algebra classes/tests too early. So, the logic went, remove that penalty and we’ll remove the incentive for premature algebra placements. I’ll agree with your bullet points for human nature, but for the one on principals looking good (as translated into higher API scores)unintended consequence of the API penalty for Gen Math was for principals (and central office folks) to encourage too many unjustified algebra placements. The “equal credit” for Gen Math and Algebra scores will have the effect of principals (and central office folks) for encouraging more than justified Gen Math placements since scores on the easier test will now get equal credit as scores on the more difficult test, and thus maximize API scores. It would be nice to have a true neutral API credit device that would encourage accurate placement decisions, rather than incent too many or too few algebra placements by grade 8. But, we haven’t found that equilibrium for middle school math policy as yet . . . . for the future, if in fact we can implement an adaptive testing pototcal that covers both common core grade 8 content and full common core algebra content, with performance standards for both sets of content set on the common scale of measurement that is necessary for adaptive testing, then that design will provide a natural empirical credit that will give differential credit for scores for kids taking each pathway, with higher credit for kids taking the more ambitious algebra pathway. That scenario would be great, but a caution is that no one has done that scenario yet so we are on the bleeding edge if we assume that the adaptive strategy will solve this policy problem.

  2. Paul on Mar 19, 2013 at 7:12 pm03/19/2013 7:12 pm

    • 000

    If there were 7th-graders who were prepared to take algebra, why wouldn’t there still be? And so, why wouldn’t there still be sections of Grade 7 algebra and Grade 8 geometry in such middle schools? The Grade 8 algebra incentive had no effect on that advanced population, which never took algebra in Grade 8.

    There is no cascading “dumbing down”, either. The Common Core standards for the elementary grades are quite rigorous, and aim to develop a depth of understanding that was an optional (depending on teacher skill, textbook quality and student effort), not required, effect of the old state standards.

    Middle school math teacher qualifucations are not affected by this change, either. Middle schools are typically staffed with holders of: single subject math credentials (overkill for a middle school: able to teach any math course through calculus), single subject foundational-level math credentials (still more than what is required: up to Algebra II), or other base credentials with subject matter authorizations in introductory math (perfect: up to geometry). On rare occasions, districts can get around the normal assignment rules by including math in a middle school “core” (self-contained, or multiple subjects in the same room) class, an assignment for which a K-8 multiple subjects credential is valid. Though teaching algebra would be permitted, it is arguable whether the credentialholder has demonstrated adequate content knowledge. The point is, all three of the normal assignment options allow for algebra and even geometry, and the fourth one is uncommon, since most middle schools are departmentalized. By all means, sound the alarm bell if you see a district switching from departmentalized middle school math to math in self-contained middle school classrooms as a result of the removal of the test score incentive for Grade 8 algebra.


    • Doug McRae on Mar 20, 2013 at 8:26 am03/20/2013 8:26 am

      • 000

      Pauls, El, Navigio: Responding to the gist of the last half dozen comments, the “disincentive” to offer algebra in the middle school grades is not an economic disincentive, but rather a disincentive based on giving equal credit for an “easier” path contrasted to a more demanding path for API calculations, with human nature kicking in and folks taking the easier path (i.e., assigning more kids to the easier courses and tests) to maximize their APIs. That is the unintended consequence of the action taken by the state board last week. In terms of lowering the expectations, the comparison that is on-point is not the comparison between current standards/courses/tests and future common core standards/courses/tests, but rather the comparison between the less ambitious future common core grade 8 pre-algebra standards/courses/tests and the more ambitious common core full algebra standards/courses/tests. For that future comparison, which will drive placement decisions, equal credit for the two pathways will have the effect of providing a disincentive for schools to offer full algebra courses/tests in the middle school grades. That is the policy argument leading to the conclusion that California is on a path to lowering expectations (or standards) for kids ready to take algebra by grade 8. The economics of offering algebra in the middle school grades may well come into play for individual schools or districts, but I think we’ve proved over the past 15 years that somewhere in the neighborhood of half our middle school students can and should take algebra by grade 8, and if that is so then the economics statewide are neutral for the algebra in middle school grades conversation.

  3. Paul on Mar 18, 2013 at 4:05 pm03/18/2013 4:05 pm

    • 000

    I disagree with those who fear that the discontuation of a test score incentive will prompt school districts to stop offering algebra in middle school. There is no rational economic basis for such a decision.

    Whether a student is enrolled in Grade 8 Algebra or Common Core Grade 8 Math, total Grade 8 math enrollment remains the same, the total number of certificated math teachers remains the same, and operating costs remain the same. As long as there are enough students who were proficient in Grade 7 Math (generally, in multiples of 25-32, so that economically viable classes can be formed), districts have no reason not to continue scheduling some sections of Grade 8 Algebra.

    Even the aggregate capital cost remains the same: the number of math classroom hours remains the same, whatever math course each student takes in Grade 8, and the number of textbooks needed in each geographic area remains the same, since the state insists that every pupil must eventually take Algebra I to graduate from high school.


    • Paul Muench on Mar 19, 2013 at 1:14 pm03/19/2013 1:14 pm

      • 000

      I think you hit the nail on the head with the exception you granted. Algebra is only part of the story for some districts. Our district used to pride itself in offering Geometry and Algebra II in middle school. Those courses are much more in question for precisely the reason you stated.

      • Paul Muench on Mar 19, 2013 at 1:17 pm03/19/2013 1:17 pm

        • 000

        Forgot to mention that this is having a ripple effect in our elementary school as the scarcity roles down hill :)

    • el on Mar 19, 2013 at 3:40 pm03/19/2013 3:40 pm

      • 000

      Paul, I’m not concerned about the lack of test score incentive, but I am concerned about various disincentives to offer advanced math tracks to students.

      When I was an 8th grader, maybe 6% of the kids in my jr. high took algebra, enough to fill one class, ie 30/500. For smaller schools, or for one class out of the day, it may turn out that some schools don’t have enough kids to make hiring a quality algebra instructor a priority, or it may be that there isn’t willingness to create sections so that exactly the kids who should take algebra do, rather than driven by the needs of the school to have convenient multiples.

      It’s up to each of us to ensure that the needs of kids on a local level are met, and to ensure that the State doesn’t accidentally make it harder than necessary for schools to do the right thing by the kids.

      • navigio on Mar 19, 2013 at 5:20 pm03/19/2013 5:20 pm

        • 000

        I agree. Inconvenience is expensive. Budgets are zero-sum. One reason I’ve always brought up the anecdotes related to the algebra question is to try to show that different schools have very different needs, even now. Our one middle school who doesn’t currently offer algebra in 7th grade has less than 20% proficiency even in 8th grade. That not only segregates by ability (away from the school), but with such a low proficiency rate, and the removal of the ‘incentive’ for 8th graders to take it, I have to question whether there will be any desire to bother with algebra in that school at all, especially given that there is an alternative (another school) where half the 7th grade class takes it and achieves 100% proficiency (and a couple other middle schools somewhere in between). I do understand that the goal is to try to provide kids what they need when they need it (and that makes sense), but if the impact is to cause entire schools even in the same district to have different policies, then that seems like it’s just creating another problem. I expect the high school hiring might also have to ‘adjust’ for this alternate track, and so this segregation by ability will probably create something like a tale of two districts.

  4. D on Mar 15, 2013 at 10:19 pm03/15/2013 10:19 pm

    • 000

    “As in some teachers just care about their paychecks.”
    Maybe that is even wrong to say. I don’t know. However some people are definately NOT CARING. Union????? Can SOMEONE PLEASE figure this mess out and stop giving any sense of false hope???

  5. D on Mar 15, 2013 at 9:29 pm03/15/2013 9:29 pm

    • 000

    “As in some teachers just care about their paychecks.”

    Oh jeez I shouldn’t have said that. It’s so not PC. Sorry guys. It is however how I have been made to feel after having two children (one grown) go through this system.

  6. D on Mar 15, 2013 at 9:06 pm03/15/2013 9:06 pm

    • 000

    By the way when I say you I don’t mean any specific you. You in a generalized meaning. As in some teachers just care about their paychecks. As in prop 30 which was fully pushed while the prop that had the money guarenteed to go strait to the kids went unmentioned in the union push.

  7. D on Mar 15, 2013 at 8:13 pm03/15/2013 8:13 pm

    • 000

    “Sometimes I think that’s actually the point of educational policy..”

    I would have to agree on that one. There’s definately goldilocks zone. You can’t be too smart and you can’t not be smart enough. Right smack mediocre is right where we need the kids. Too bad these kids aren’t just competing with all the other mediocre kids for college spots. Our colleges are now gunning for international students, who you better believe are getting their needs met, are going to pay cash and outperform our goldilocks zone kids. I guess that’s all fine and dandy if someone is just concerned with their paycheck. You would think that our government would have a HUGE concern here considering our “national treasures” are falling through the cracks and not meeting their potentials. I mean seriously what would happen in China if this was happening to their best and brightest. Pretty sure at the very least people would end up with charges.


    • el on Mar 17, 2013 at 9:02 am03/17/2013 9:02 am

      • 000

      China has had a huge problem for many years, which is that their best and brightest go to the US for university and never come home. And, I think, with respect, that China also has a long history of allowing, or in some cases, actively shoving, some very bright students, into the cracks.

      Something I would counsel is to have less fear. Do what you can every day to make things better for your son and for kids in general. But also recognize that schools are far better than they were when most of us were kids, for gifted kids, for ordinary kids, and for non-white non-suburban kids.

      Are they good enough? No, and they never will be.

      When I was a kid, liking science or getting an A on an essay could get you beaten up or otherwise bullied. Today, geeks are admired public figures… we even elected one President.

      There is still much to do, but there is no “golden age” where American education was better than it is now.

      • D on Mar 17, 2013 at 5:12 pm03/17/2013 5:12 pm

        • 000

        Hi El :-)
        I agree, thank God society is changing and coming to a realization that we need to put high value on Science, Math and Literature and not so much on sports. I think it’s imperative that we do, or be left behind.

        I respectively disagree that China is shoving their best and brightest through the cracks. Every year at my son’s school we have many forign exchange students of elementary and junior high come to our school. With China’s pride and want to be the best I highly doubt that they are shoving anyone who is naturally able to succeed down. They probably are shoving kids who aren’t quite as able to succeed to succeed as well.

        We are not going to be able to compete.

        I don’t agree that things are better for gifted children, having been one and now raised one myself. I think it is worse now. Definately worse now, with the influx of ESL. Our gifted program is the last on the list of importance. A psychologist once told me he’s never seen a gifted program “worth a damn” in the first place. There’s not enough teacher training (what is it 6 hours?) in their needs, because their needs are extremely different than the norm. Most teacher don’t realize that these are NOT the kids who sit still and are people pleasers. They question the rules and if you don’t meet their needs they act up. Although a pain in butt in the class, it’s completely natural and a much needed personality trait of ground breaking achievements later in life. It takes a whole heck of alot of time, energy and resources to keep up with their intellectual cravings. And if we don’t meet those needs they become your problem children (they WILL find a way to entertain themselves), underachievers and basically just fall flat. There is a much higher rate of drop outs with the gifted than the general population.

        Anyway with dropping Algebra in junior high, or the incentive to offer it (and lets face it, without incentive it ISN’T going to happen) it is definately going to be detrimental to the gifted kids especially. Not, of course, that by the time junior high has came around we haven’t already lost them.

        • D on Mar 17, 2013 at 6:02 pm03/17/2013 6:02 pm

          • 000

          “They question the rules”

          And let’s face it, there’s ALOT to question. The whole education system needs to be revamped. We don’t need factory workers. We need our innovators our “outside the box” thinkers more than ever.

        • el on Mar 18, 2013 at 8:57 am03/18/2013 8:57 am

          • 000

          I strongly agree with your concern about gifted dropouts. I was one, and I’m not the only one I know.

          I also agree that it’s critically important that we find the right balance with 8th grade algebra – continuing to offer it to every child who is ready, continuing to get as many kids ready for it as we can, but yet not shoving kids who aren’t ready into that mold. We need to have the resources for divergent paths by the time the kids are in middle school, even for small schools that don’t have a whole classroom’s worth of kids on an elite math track.

          It’s too easy for people who don’t know highly gifted kids to think they will be “fine” when in fact they can be as vulnerable as any other special ed kid. But we do have more options for them now – more magnet/special schools, more academy types, and in the future, I hope, more online options. The pull-out programs I attended were not all that wonderful. The most important part, in my mind, is finding the gifted kids a peer group that works for them. They’re not more expensive to educate if you can collect a critical mass.

          • D on Mar 18, 2013 at 10:27 am03/18/2013 10:27 am

            • 000

            I was one as well El. I remember in 7th grade making the conscious decision that smart doesn’t equal friends. Dropped the grades, went underachievement mode and became as popular as I wanted to be. I also dropped out Senior year. Went back a couple years later (adult school) and finished in 2 weeks, but how many times do I kick myself wishing I was working with DNA in a lab trying to cure cancer right now? Potential not met.

            Junior high is identity crisis time. So important to grab these kids and let them know their difference is not a curse but a blessing. Investing and trying my best with my child, but how many others are last in line?

            Peer groups….yes El. I hear you.

  8. D on Mar 15, 2013 at 9:06 am03/15/2013 9:06 am

    • 000

    Don’t get me wrong, I am glad that these kids educational needs are being met, if not by their parents, at least there is a safety net for them.

    All I am saying is gifted children are getting extremely little support and now even less than the rest if all goes according to plan.

    I pay for my child’s education in order to go around this. I thought we were going to be over this hurdle in high school. That my child would go to a magnet with kids whose parents find education important and are pushing their kids to succeed. Then here comes Brown’s education funding. The school we chose for high school will now get $3000 less per child then the others! So the gifted (with EXTREMELY HIGH NEEDS) come last in line again. They do need at least the same amount of funding as the rest. It’s not cheep to fund the constant NEED, drive and excitement for learning and keep that spark alive. If their needs are not met it’s a guarentee we’ll lose them.

    The only safety net we had in his right for a free and adaquate education meeting his needs as is his right as an American Citizen will be recieveing less money than the rest. How is that fair?

    My child is completely capable and has aspirations of UCLA and becoming a physicist. He wants to be a contributing member of our society. We fully support him at home with whatever it takes and he CAN do it, but when we turn to the public school system we are let down. There is no safety net for kids like him. When we go back will he be bored, will he have his legs metaphorically tied together, will we be told he needs to slow down and needs medication so he can sit through this again? Will he once again lose his spark? How many kids like him are we letting fall through the cracks while we completely shore up and focus on everyone else but the gifted?

    If everyone is so worried about test scores you would think people would make kids like these a priority just as much as the rest of the population. They are currently last in line and first to leave out your door if the parents are lucky enough to have a choice.


    • navigio on Mar 15, 2013 at 9:44 am03/15/2013 9:44 am

      • 000

      They are currently […] first to leave out your door if the parents are lucky enough to have a choice.

      Sometimes I think that’s actually the point of educational policy..

  9. D on Mar 14, 2013 at 6:11 pm03/14/2013 6:11 pm

    • 000

    From the look of things if you aren’t ESL, you’re not a minority and you aren’t poor you better be doing your own homework and working overtime because everyone is seemingly penalizing you for being who you are. From Brown’s money breakdown on.


    • el on Mar 14, 2013 at 11:26 pm03/14/2013 11:26 pm

      • 000

      Just remember, if you think it will bring your child amazing extra resources to be poor, there’s nothing stopping you from becoming poor yourself. You can do it tomorrow. All you have to do is quit your job and/or give away your income. You too can qualify for the wonder that is food stamps. Or, you can just choose to move to a community that is nearly 100% free & reduced lunch. You’ll be in a school with the concentration dollars and your housing will be affordable besides.

      (gentle smile)

      I completely agree with you that we don’t do enough for gifted kids, especially gifted kids who aren’t fortunate enough to live in a city with access to a gifted magnet. The system overall is starved for money and is asked to bandaid significant societal structural issues. When you have a special needs kid – whether it’s giftedness or deafness or CP or whatever – sometimes you have to look and work extra hard to find the school that’s the right fit, unfortunately. We have to work to grow the pie together, to meet the needs of all our kids.

  10. D on Mar 14, 2013 at 5:59 pm03/14/2013 5:59 pm

    • 000

    The more I read these articles the more I realize I am going to have to do everything in my own power to make sure my child doesn’t suffer. My god my child took Algerbra 1 in 7th grade in less then a semester. Not because of his race, or his opportunities but because of his ability. Shouldn’t this be all about ability????? Math is a language in itself. It’s new to all the kids in kindergarten. I fear to even answer the race question on applications anymore. When I see quotes like, ‘the winners won’t win as quickly and the losers won’t lose as quickly and it will all be more tolerable” it blows my mind. Ok, so lets break this down in layman’s terms. Let’s take our top gifted atheletes and tie their legs together so the other kids have more advantage over them. Trophys for all. This is a MESS.


    • Manuel on Mar 14, 2013 at 11:08 pm03/14/2013 11:08 pm

      • 000

      Do you realize that there are very few students like your son? Our elementary schools are not set to cater to the gifted, unfortunately. Maybe they did before we decided to run them more like factories, where the scores are the driving force behind all the “reform.”

      True, it has been suggested that more resources be given to bring up poor students up because, frankly, that’s the easiest way to increase the all-important API. This, of course, is attractive to those interested in social justice, but the baby has been thrown out with the bathwater: the gifted have not many places to go. The only avenue is highly gifted magnets. Good luck with your son.

      I do have one suggestion: stop resenting the fact that poor students are finally getting some help. It has gone long enough and it was time that something be done about it. And it is not just because it is the right thing to do, but because we cannot afford to write off such a large segment of the California population. We need as many of them educated as well as possible else we won’t be able to economically compete.

    • el on Mar 14, 2013 at 11:11 pm03/14/2013 11:11 pm

      • 000

      I think that particular phrase wasn’t meant the way you’re taking it; the person who said it was arguing about districts being winners and losers in terms of funding, not kids, and was arguing for a larger base grant, making the crazy suggestion that the base grant should be some amount we thought was in the ballpark of how much it cost to educate a child. This in contrast to the initial determination of the base grant, which was as far as I can tell a solution to a slightly more complicated algebraic equation than

      X + 1.3X * percentage special needs kids = Current education funding

  11. Just a thought on Mar 14, 2013 at 9:57 am03/14/2013 9:57 am

    • 000

    How strange that California K-12 is lowering the bar for math, in the face of evidence that 8th grade algebra is strongly related to success in education beyond high school.

    How is it that K-12 and higher education in California will finally work together only to simultaneously lower standards? The legislature’s higher ed policy contribution is legislation requiring colleges to accept for credit the completion of massive online courses. While potentially valuable in improving cost-effectiveness, learning in these courses is thus far untested, unproven and unrated, and will now be taken by less-prepared students.

    What ever happened to “evidence-based” policy in California?


    • Manuel on Mar 14, 2013 at 1:18 pm03/14/2013 1:18 pm

      • 000

      Whatever happened? It went out the window when the State Board of Education voted to make “800” the Holy API Grail way back in, oh, the late 90s.

      It also went out the window when the vendor (ETS) was allowed to define the proficient cut off point as the average of the CST score when they were approved as the testing component of the Public School Accountability Act.

      It went out the window when bilingual education was replaced by “structured immersion” via Proposition 227.

      It went… but I am sure you get the idea that we don’t really have an “evidence-based” policy in California. We may pay lip service to it but we don’t really have it.

  12. Doug McRae on Mar 14, 2013 at 8:25 am03/14/2013 8:25 am

    • 000

    There was a silver lining in the state board’s discouraging action yesterday morning that for the immediate future will have the effect of discouraging middle schools from offering algebra to kids ready for algebra by grade 8 and artificially boost APIs for middle schools. The silver lining was that early afternoon the board signaled that developing a full algebra test for future statewide assessments should be a priority. Smarter Balanced is not developing a full algebra test, and a full algebra test was not included in the SPI’s recommendation for future statewide assessments delivered to the legislature in January. But the board said having such a test was a priority, and identified savings in the current STAR contract that would pay for development of a new common core algebra test. Having an algebra test is the first step needed for a coherent policy for middle school math that includes algebra for kids ready for algebra by grade 8 and common core grade 8 pre-algebra for kids not-yet-ready for algebra by grade 8. For the assessment program, then, kids taking algebra in middle schools will take an algebra test and kids taking common core grade 8 will take the Smarter Balanced grade 8 test. The final step will be to design performance standards for both courses/tests to permit data aggregation for the full enrollment for each grade level and ensure that the accountability system is neutral for local placement decisions for math courses and tests kids take in middle school. That chore is a bit complex, but it is doable and in fact has been done before. So, cheers for the silver lining on the middle school math issue from the state board early yesterday afternoon.

  13. navigio on Mar 14, 2013 at 7:28 am03/14/2013 7:28 am

    • 000

    DId I just hear a collective sigh of relief? I guess now we can make Algebra exclusively a high school course again.. should make hiring easier.. and allow more easily consolidating curriculum..

    Oh, and the best part: almost everyone’s APIs will increase! In fact, this will, by definition, reduce the achievement gap. Everyone will be amazed! I can just see the headlines now..


    • John Fensterwald on Mar 14, 2013 at 9:07 am03/14/2013 9:07 am

      • 000

      Write your headline, navigio. The state estimates the base API will rise 10 points in seventh and eighth grades if the penalty is dropped:
      However, API is about to go through some dramatic shifts, especially if the Legislature agrees with the state superintendent’s recommendation to eliminate many end of year tests in preparation for the new Common Core assessments. So it will be one change of many.

      • navigio on Mar 14, 2013 at 11:47 am03/14/2013 11:47 am

        • 000

        The headline will read, “Change in standardized testing policy leads to 10 point increase in middle school API”, but I’d get fired for submitting a headline that long so it’s more likely to be shortened to “10 point increase in middle school API!”

        Even odds the term ‘good news’ shows up either in the headline or text..


  14. Paul Miench on Mar 14, 2013 at 6:05 am03/14/2013 6:05 am

    • 000

    My first thought is too bad the board lacked the patience to complete their work on an alternative path before taking this action. Given how many students this policy was helping I really think they owe us an explanation of why they made this decision at this time. Is that available somewhere?

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