There are a number of people who don't think the Wake County school board's efforts to get more students into Algebra I in middle school is a good idea.
During last week's board meeting, N.C. State Professor Jim Martin said he fully supports that "nothing but competency" be used in assigning students to Algebra I. He said it's "unacceptable" to make placement decisions in Algebra I based on race or economic status.
"However I must counter the myth that is being perpetuated," Martin quickly added. "You don't need algebra in middle school to be competitive in application to college."
Supporters of the new guidelines designed to place more qualified students into Algebra I point to the class being a gateway to future high school, college and life success.
Martin pointed to his own case. He said he hadn't taken algebra until 9th grade and now he's a successful chemistry teacher. He said he benefited from not having been rushed to take algebra earlier.
"I am frankly dismayed as a chemistry professor at the lack of competency in algebra that many of the students coming to my general chemistry and even junior and senior level of chemistry have," Martin said. "I've talked to math professors at N.C. State and they tell me the same thing.
We're pushing students to the mathematics curriculum far too fast. Technically, aspects of a curriculum can be covered in an accelerated approach. But learning and understanding requires time with material. It is understanding with algebra that we need for later success."
Martin drew laughs from the audience when he used an algebra analogy to take shots at school board members who've equated the use of student achievement in the Alves student assignment plan as a quota.
Martin said that if you understand algebra, then you recognize the need to consider all variables and to label them to solve the equation and find the solution.
"Let's create efforts to develop an understanding of algebra. not rush our kids and others through a superficial understanding," Martin closed to applause from the audience.
Martin has been a frequent public critic of the school board's changes in student assignment policy. He's the father of an Enloe High School student.
Speaking of the new math guidelines, school board member John Tedesco and some members of his ED task force met last week with interim Superintendent Donna Hargens and David Holdzkom, assistant superintendent for evaluation and research, to go over the the placement data.
More to come later...