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Algebra 2 Pushback Turns Up in Michigan With House Measure

Algebra 2 may be falling out of political favor in another state, this time Michigan.

A Michigan House committee this month approved changes to state graduation requirements, including allowing students to skip Algebra 2 if they instead take a career and technical education course, the Associated Press reports.

One reason this is noteworthy is that it could be seen as going against the grain of the Common Core State Standards, which include a level of math content that includes the rough equivalent of taking both Algebra 1 and Algebra 2. In fact, one "model pathway" outlined in an appendix to the math standards suggests students take Algebra 1, Geometry, and then Algebra 2.

The Michigan measure apparently does require that the alternative career-tech offering include Algebra 2 content, the AP story says, though I imagine some people will be wondering about the mathematical rigor of the alternative, as well as how much time would be carved out for learning algebra. (This may be entirely coincidental, but I should mention that the Michigan House last month passed a budget bill that would prohibit the use of state dollars to implement the common core. You can get the full scoop over at the State EdWatch blog.)

Michigan is not the only state where this issue has arisen lately. Last month, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a measure that would rewrite graduation rules and make Algebra 2 an optional course for those pursuing a standard diploma.

In a blog post about the Florida measure, I explore in greater detail what the legislation looks like and some of the larger issues it raises for adherence to the common core.

Meanwhile, in Texas, which did not adopt the common core, pushback from educators and political leaders is also leading to likely changes in graduation requirements, including Algebra 2. The House bill, approved earlier this spring, would reduce from 15 to five the number of end-of-course exams. Algebra 2 is among those on the chopping block. A Senate version approved this week also reduces the number of required exams by the same amount, though it would continue to offer Algebra 2 and English 3 as optional exams for districts, according to a story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram newspaper.

Both bills would move away from the so-called 4x4 approach of requiring Texas students pursuing a standard diploma to take four years each of math, science, English, and social studies. Instead, they would only need four years of English, though the measures do create new "endorsements" that require more coursework in certain subjects.

The Texas legislation has encountered sharp criticism from some Texas business leaders (though others support it), as well as national advocacy groups.

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