Does Mandating Higher Academic Standards Work?

There’s no question that a strong foundation in algebra is one key to raising academic standards, increasing the competitiveness of our future workforce and opening doors to broader career choices for students. But my attention was caught recently by the study of the effects of mandating algebra in 9th grade.

The Effects of Mandating Algebra in School Math Programs:

In 1997 the Chicago school district was one of the first to require that 9th graders take algebra to help ensure that its high school graduates would be ready for college. And many districts have followed—Minnesota and California even requiring it in 8th grade, assuming the California policy is implemented. However, researchers found rising failure rates, and the algebra mandate “did not seem to lead to any significant test-score gains for students in math or in sizeable increases in the percentages of students who went on to take higher-level math courses later on in high school.” (You can read the Edweek article I’m quoting here.)

But isn’t it obvious that if algebra is the needed foundation for their future, kids need the right early foundation to be successful in algebra? All of which reinforces my belief in the importance of what we’re doing at DreamBox: helping more kids develop conceptual understanding and fluency with basics—like number sense and computation—and giving them engaging ways to develop problem solving skills. We’re helping kids to be confident and well prepared for success with algebra.