In an OpEd piece in the NY Times on July 28th, 2012 titled Is Algebra Necessary?, Andrew Hacker, emeritus professor of political science at Queens College, City University of New York, and a co-author of “Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids — and What We Can Do About It,” details the problems with forcing all students to take algebra, geometry, and other mathematics when they are not ready, or uninterested in doing so.
I could not agree more with Mr. Hacker’s opinion. My comments to his post follow. I will elaborate on my perspective at a later date.
Radical change is needed re: compulsory algebra (as well as geometry and beyond) at all public schools. While ANY student should be allowed to take algebra, geometry, or beyond, they should not be forced to take it when they are not ready or adequately prepared (as determined by multiple measures) which will incur greater costs to implement until more cost-effective technology is developed and deployed.
After several decades of attempts, involving hundreds of millions of students of all backgrounds, it seems clear there is no “holy grail” method for ALL students to succeed (much less attain ‘proficiency’) in these courses UNLESS significant changes occur such as small group or even 1:1 intensive instruction which is likely fiscally untenable, and it is not clear that effort will be effective.
I do not believe the answer lies in the new Common Core State Standards, standardized testing, NCLB / RTTT or other federal mandates, charter schools, curriculum, pedagogy, or instructor / teacher but in the student and their personal investment in their education, which they, or their family, may realize is inadequate for the task at specific points in time. However, these same students may recognize when they are ready, and able to succeed once they either feel prepared and/or able to dedicate themselves to success, albeit supported by their family and excellent instruction by teachers committed to helping ALL students learn.
NB: Most teachers have been, and are still, committed to helping ALL students learn. However, that process input is insufficient to achieve success in these subjects, and likely any subject.