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Push to Mandate Algebra 2 in High School Ramps Up

Talk about college readiness often includes discussion of how much and what kind of math to take in high school. Today's Washington Post has a front-page story examining the push to raise graduation requirements to include Algebra 2.

Those in higher education complain that students arrive on campus ill-prepared for college-level math because they don't take rigorous classes in high school—often skipping it as seniors, leaving a gap of a year in math instruction. Some 60 percent of new students at community college must enroll in developmental classes —often math—for no credit just to catch up.

The Post article points to research that links Algebra 2 to college and work success. Anthony Carnevale and Alice Desrochers followed a group of 8th grade students from 1988 to 2000 until the time when most were working. Of those who had top-tier jobs, 84 percent had taken Algebra 2 or a higher class; 50 percent of employees in the bottom tier had taken Algebra 2, the study showed.

However, there is debate over whether students do better in life because they took Algebra 2 or whether it is merely correlated with them achieving more. Carnevale cautions policymakers, noting that the causal relationship is very weak, the Post article says.

Yet, there is some momentum to raising the math bar. In recent years, 20 states and the District of Columbia have moved to raise graduation requirements to include Algebra 2, the article notes.

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