Jan 29, 2024 - News

San Francisco releases 3 options for middle school algebra

Photo of a hand holding a pencil over a notebook filled with written math equations

A student works on an exercise during math class at Roosevelt Middle School in 2017 in San Francisco. Photo: Lea Suzuki/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) has unveiled three possible frameworks for incorporating algebra back into middle school education.

Driving the news: Amid raging debates around academic rigor and equity in math performance, SFUSD officials are soliciting feedback before they finalize a proposal for the school board.

Details: The first of the three options would allow students to choose between the current eighth-grade math class as is and a curriculum that also covers Algebra 1, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

  • The second would add Algebra 1 as an elective during or before the school day.
  • The third would make Algebra 1 a summer intensive course, which rising ninth graders would be able to opt into.

Of note: The latter two options would require SFUSD to hire more teachers, which could cost up to $200,000 if the district moves forward with offering summer math sections, the Chronicle notes.

The big picture: Public schools in the city taught algebra in the eighth grade until the school board voted in 2014 to have students wait until high school to learn Algebra 1.

  • The move was designed to address systemic inequities that prevent Black and Latino students from accessing higher-level courses at the same rate as their peers.
  • These barriers can have long-term impacts on higher education and career pursuits.

Yes, but: Large racial and ethnic gaps in advanced math enrollment persisted even after the 2014 policy change, Stanford researchers found in a March study.

  • Some local advocacy groups have also countered that denying middle school students the opportunity to learn algebra ultimately hurts disadvantaged kids and drives families out of public schools.

What's next: The school board will hear the proposed policy change on Feb. 13.

  • Under superintendent Matt Wayne, the district is also reworking its approach to foundational skills as it considers ways to bolster students' engagement with math curricula.
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