SF parents sue local school district to put Algebra I back in middle school
San Francisco parents are suing the city's public school district for not offering Algebra I to middle school students and for requiring students to retake the course in ninth grade even if they have already passed it elsewhere.
The lawsuit, filed on March 22, calls for the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) to offer Algebra I in middle school, arguing that current policies and practices hinder students' academic growth in mathematics and creates barriers to excelling in the subject.
According to the suit, advanced students have become bored with what their parents have referred to as dumbed-down math. The parents have also expressed concerns that their children are falling behind those enrolled in private schools and in other districts that offer a middle school option.
In an interview with the San Francisco Examiner, SFUSD alumnus and parent Maya Keshavan accused the district of misleading the public about key metrics of its math program.
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[District officials] claimed to dramatically reduce algebra 1 failure after it was delayed to ninth grade but have offered no evidence to back this claim. In fact, the rate fell only because the district eliminated an exit exam students were required to pass. Public data requests revealed the purported success could not be replicated, and the district refused to explain.
The suit also alleges that students who took Algebra I outside the district were forced to retake it, violating California's education code, which prescribes that students who complete the course prior to high school already satisfy the Algebra I graduation requirement in the state.
Currently, only those who took Algebra I before high school and demonstrated proficiency by passing a “math validation test” will not be required to retake it.
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SFUSD's math policy, implemented in 2014, keeps all students together in math until junior year, when advanced students can then surge ahead by taking a combined Algebra II and precalculus course, followed by calculus during their senior year.
However, the policy has been criticized for not offering equitable access to advanced math and for resulting racial gaps in enrollment in higher-level math courses. According to the concerned parents, the current system makes it almost impossible for students to access calculus in high school.
Parents are pushing for those consolidated courses to be offered in middle school instead as completing these courses would give their children an advantage when applying to colleges.
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In 2016, the parents petitioned the district to restore Algebra I to the middle school curriculum, submitting over 1,000 signatures.
A Stanford University study also released on March 22 indicated that the district's policy had not improved equitable access to advanced math courses, despite increasing higher-level math participation among all racial groups.
The study noted that figures from before and after the reform was implemented were the same: “White and Asian students in SFUSD enroll in Precalculus at rates roughly two to four times higher than their Black and Hispanic peers.”
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According to Stanford researcher Thomas Dee, he is hoping the study will inspire a “rethink about what is going on here to prevent equitable access to advanced math.”