Nov 16, 2023 - Education

Bringing back eighth-grade algebra at San Francisco schools

Illustration of ruler making a divide sign

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

San Francisco's public school district this week outlined its vision to reinstate algebra into the eighth-grade curriculum beginning next school year.

Why it matters: The proposal comes amid public pressure to bring back algebra to middle school, a move education advocates argue will better prepare students for high school math.

Driving the news: Under the proposal, the school district would begin the implementation process next school year.

Flashback: San Francisco's public schools used to teach algebra in the eighth grade, but a controversial shift in the state's academic standards in 2014 resulted in San Francisco public school students waiting until high school to learn algebra.

  • The majority of eighth-grade students in San Francisco who had taken first-year algebra up to that point had either failed the class or performed poorly, KQED reports.

Yes, but: Advocacy group SF Guardians says denying kids the opportunity to learn algebra in middle school "hurts disadvantaged kids" and "pushes families out of our public schools."

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors this week voted 10-1 in favor of a March 2024 ballot measure proposal that urges the school board to offer algebra to students by the eighth grade.

  • Despite the outlined vision for setting a timeline for bringing back algebra to middle school, Supervisor Ahsha Safaí, a co-sponsor of the ballot measure, said the plan is to "stay the course."
  • In his experience with the school district, he said, "it's been a situation where they have set deadlines, but those deadlines haven't been met."
  • The ballot measure, he added, "will be our way to ensure that this is more of a referendum on the issue, that the leadership and school board and elected body understands how important this is."

What they're saying: Bringing back algebra to middle school, Safaí said, will increase enrollment and ultimately increase confidence in San Francisco's public school system.

  • "We want to send a message that San Francisco schools are back on track and they're making commonsense decisions," he said.

The sole dissenting vote came from Supervisor Shamann Walton, who said at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting that he has "no idea the purpose of this ballot measure," given that the board has no jurisdiction over the Board of Education.

  • "I don't like misleading the voters in making them think that we're putting something on the ballot that has any teeth or that actually does anything, because this measure does not do anything," he said.
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