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California (But Not Its Schools) Out $1 million


In the latest twist in the great California algebra debate, the feds have said that because the state is not complying with a testing mandate, they plan to take $1 million from the California Department of Education and redirect it to needy schools.

The move is the result of delays associated with California's attempt to test all 8th graders in introductory algebra, a controversial policy that is now stalled in court.

California's state board of education voted in July to require that all 8th graders be tested in Algebra 1 within three years, which state officials say has the effect of mandating that all students take that subject in that grade. Compared to other states' math requirements, it's a high standard. The state approved that plan after the feds said that California could not continue a policy that allowed 8th graders who had not be taught algebra to be tested in 6th and 7th grade math. The algebra mandate was backed by the business community but drew opposition from school administrators and others who said it was unrealistic. A Sacramento County Superior Court Judge has ordered that the mandate be postponed for the time being.

California will not lose out on the $1 million in funding, according to the story in the Associated Press. That money will instead be directed to needy schools, without direction from the state, the report says.


Does the business community make policy based on what the education community thinks? Isn't putting the opinion of business ahead of education in these matters putting the cart before the horse? Don't forget what the business community just did to the American economy.


This situation has roots deeper than the current set of decisions. California had one set of expectations set in standards (which I am certain were far more heavily determined by educators) and another reflected in testing practice--which effectively said that the eighth grade standards only applied to a subset of students. All others were to be judged by the standards of earlier grades.

Personally, I am a bit cold by the argument that educators alone should determine what is taught in schools. Our world is more interdependent than that, and checks are always needed to prevent slipshod practice from creeping in. The business community has knowledge about the kinds of knowledge and skills they value in workers, just as the buying community has knowledge about the kinds of products and prices that they value from the selling community.

I don't recall that the education community was standing tall and demanding that all students receive education in finance and the economy in order to avoid their eventual compliance in such things as mortgage scams, easy credit rip-offs, etc. I don't even hear a strong voice from education that every student should complete high school with a basic level of employability (or that every st udent should complete high school).

I don't think any of the problems that we face are going to be solved by finger pointing--or by ignoring some of the wide knowledge gaps built into the current education system.

This is another example of micro-management and over-regulation of schools by officials who are not educators. It is way past time to let educators do their jobs unimpaired by officials who know little about teaching in the real world.

I think it is entirely unrealistic to have students take a test on something they may or may not have learned yet. If all had taken the class at the eighth grade level then this required taking would be just that, required. Yet, I can understand why the schools in California would not be following these testing policies. Students should be testing according to their knowledge and not according to irrational standards.

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