In a piece called, Recalculating the 8th-Grade Algebra Rush, Washington Post education reporter Jay Mathews admits that he has second thoughts about pushing all math students into algebra by 8th grade. The reason: a new study by the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, which found that almost 1/3 of the students who scored in the bottom 10th on the National Assessment of Educational Progress eighth-grade test were enrolled in first-year algebra, geometry or second-year algebra. Almost all were grossly misplaced, probably because of the push to get kids into algebra sooner.
This is not the first time that Mathews has changed his mind. Last year, Mathews, who had called himself “Mr. Homework,” wrote a column advocating the abolition of homework in elementary school.
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The public middle school my daughter won’t be attending sent us a notice that they wanted to place her in pre-algebra in the sixth grade, in spite of the fact that I took her out of the class that was supposed to lead in to pre-algebra, halfway through the year! There is no way she actually has the knowledge and experience to succeed in pre-algebra this year. Fortunately this is one battle we won’t have to fight.
Pushing kids too far, too fast burns them out at an early age. In our rush to accumulate credentials we destroy the qualities that lead to real achievement — confidence and a love of learning. And our kids don’t get a chance to develop a centered, authentic self.