In a bit of pedagogical brilliance, California has decided to forgo algebra I, even for 8th graders, if they are not 'ready'. And it will work, because with President Obama's killing of No Child Left Behind, despite its proven benefits in minority education and bringing parity to female math students for the first time in history, test scores (which determine money) will be based on an 'alternative' test that doesn't use algebra.
This, after the president announced yet another reform of education in his State of the Union address last night, and told us how much he cared. People dutifully stood and cheered when he said it.
Easier tests to pump up test scores is good business - and education is Big Business - so the California State Board of Education is not dumb for abandoning the idea of having all 8th-graders take Algebra, but it is cynical. The vote was unanimous and why wouldn't it be? States have wanted to revert to something like this since the education reform wave began in the 1990s. Though No Child Left Behind was passed in overwhelming bipartisan fashion, states did not like having to produce results to get money; that is the antithesis of a progressive education system. The new Common Core curriculum being rolled out in numerous states eliminates that problem by making the test too easy to fail.
So now, with elite math tracks and vocational math tracks, rather than making sure all kids learn math, we are going back in time a hundred years. In the 1920s, the first wave of social authoritatian progressives invented not only eugenics, where they could scientifically weed out inferior people, but they also invented a modern test to scientifically find the smart people who could take special classes. The remainder were shuttled into vocational classes to be trained as a labor force for the educated elites. It was called an IQ Test.
New-wave social authoritarian progressives are convinced they can do this better and they are tired of their scores being held down by students they are forced to teach. But it leads to trouble. Some some schools are already not placing black and Latino students in advanced math courses even when they're prepared, according to Sharon Noguchi at Mercury News. California schools now have a built-in excuse not to try and teach minority students. California educators argue that more minority students took algebra but many fail.
California will be fine - Asians love to move here and Asians are not culturally attached to American progressivism or the idea that it is fine to let government experiment on children, based on polling each election cycle. They make sure their kids learn whether the education lobby does or not. Sure, they are discriminated against in college admissions but Caltech does not use racial quotas in accepting students - that is why almost 40% of the place is Asian.
The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area contends that school districts are violating students' rights with this new policy - yes, saying 'when you are ready' and then telling them they are not ready can be seen that way, when these are students. In response, some school districts are trying to fix it by, ironically, having quotas for the regular math classes everyone used to take.