As you may have read, the California School Board with one day's notice has decided that all 8th. graders shall take Algebra. This is the application of the non thinking - raise the standards- mantra of the uninformed.
In future posts I will go into this more.
However, as a start.
Did you know that under current conditions only 24 % of California students rank as Proficient of Above in math and the national NAEP exam. ( 2007)
O.K. 24% understand well the current grade level work. That means that 76% are not yet proficient.
So, rather than improving math teaching by - lowering class size, retraining teachers, assisting teachers, the Board is simply going to pass a mandate. They declare a standard. A more responsible action would be to do what they can do to improve math instruction. They could act on class size, the budget, teacher support, or curriculum. This is their job.
One of the arguments listed is that algebra teaches "critical thinking". Now, I am an advocate of critical thinking.
I have written chapters on critical thinking in my book, Choosing Democracy: a practical guide to multicultural education 3rd. ( 2004). There is simply no evidence that Algebra teaches more critical thinking than other math. This claim is an assertion, not a fact. Yet, the School Board acted upon it.
More to follow.