More Support For Rethinking Algebra 2 As Community College Requirement

May 10th, 2013

By Watson Scott Swail, President and CEO of Educational Policy Institute and EPI International

The National Council on Education & the Economy, the organization led by Marc Tucker, released a series of new reports on Tuesday called What Does it Really Mean to be College and Career Ready? The reports, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and focusing on mathematics and English, explore what is necessary to align secondary and postsecondary education in the United States.

A common theme in the deliberations of today’s event is the use, and perhaps misuse, of Algebra I and II as filters for college entrance and success. In fact, Marc Tucker declared that most students in middle and high school have no need for Algebra II. The reality that today and tomorrow’s workers need to use ratios, statistics, and other basic Algebra does not fit with our demand for higher-level mathematics.

But is this true? Absolutely.

Back in 1996, I was hired by The College Board in a program called EQUITY 2000, a district-wide school reform program supported by $27 million in grants from The Ford Foundation, DeWitt-Wallace Foundation (now just the Wallace Foundation), The Kellogg Foundation, and several other organizations. The premise of EQUITY 2000 was based on a 1990 publication by Sol Pelavin called Changing the Odds: Factors Increasing Access to College. Pelavin most recently retired as president of the American Institute of Research (AIR). The report pointed to the importance of attaining high–level mathematics, specifically Algebra I and II, in determining college access and success.

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