Calif. Laws Shift Gears on Algebra, Textbooks

New laws in California have set the state on a course for some potentially significant changes to the curriculum, including a measure that revisits the matter of teaching Algebra 1 in 8th grade and another that revamps the state’s textbook-adoption process and hands districts greater leeway in choosing instructional materials.

The algebra-related legislation, in particular, has been the subject of considerable debate. State officials say it aims to help clear up confusion among school districts about state expectations in the 8th grade with the Common Core State Standards, but critics contend that it will effectively end the state’s long-standing embrace of Algebra 1 at that grade level.

At issue are additions the state made before adopting the common core, essentially approving two sets of 8th grade math standards.

Shortly after Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, signed the legislation last month, Michael W. Kirst, the president of the state school board, issued a statement addressing the question head on.

“This bill will not, as some critics claim, eliminate Algebra 1 as an option in grade 8,” he said, noting that the state intends to provide “two viable pathways” for that grade. “Placement of students in math courses based on their readiness is still a local decision and should remain as such.”

The textbook measure, meanwhile, ends a budget-driven moratorium on adopting new instructional materials, and makes changes to that process, including stating explicitly that districts are free to spend state dollars on materials not on the state-approved list. <Read more.>

Via Erik W. Robelen, Education Week.