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Across the country, advanced algebra classes may look the same, but when it comes to standards and requirements, there are many variables. Michael Alison Chandler reports in the Washington Post on the push for higher math in high schools and how II doesn't always equal II.
From Northwest Washington to the suburbs of Fairfax and Prince George's counties, advanced algebra often appears the same from class to class: Students are expected to learn dozens of skills, including factoring trinomials, solving rational equations and graphing quadratic functions.
But behind the surface similarities, experts say, there can be wide variations in what students learn in a course seen as critical to developing a math-savvy workforce for the digital age.
Those variations reflect, in part, patchwork government policy: The District, like many states, is moving toward a mandate for all students to pass Algebra II before graduating. Maryland and Virginia are not.
On the other hand, although all three jurisdictions have raised expectations for what should be taught in the class, only Virginia requires Algebra II students to take a standardized test to show they have learned the material.
Historically, "academic standards have been all over the place," said Sandy Boyd, a vice president at Achieve in the District. The organization works with states to strengthen education standards and graduation requirements to prepare students for college or more than a dead-end job. If students can crack advanced algebra, experts say, their college chances and career prospects will be brighter and their future evenings free from rehashing the same concepts in community college.
Accordingly, 20 states and the District have made Algebra II, or an equivalent course, a must for a high school diploma, up from two states in 2005. Deborah A. Gist, the District's state superintendent of education, said the requirement, approved in 2007, was overdue.
"This is our attempt to make sure our students can stay competitive," she said.
For the complete story, visit the Washington Post.
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