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Regional & National

Study: Many 8th-graders can\\\\\\\'t handle algebra

September 22nd, 2008 12:00 am by Staff Report

Peering beneath the hood of a national push to have all students take algebra by eighth grade, a new study out today finds that many of the nation\\\\\\\'s lowest-performing middle-schoolers are in way over their heads. They take algebra and other advanced math courses before they\\\\\\\'ve mastered basic skills such as multiplication, division and problem-solving with fractions.

According to USA Today report on the study for more than a decade, \\\\\\\"algebra for everyone\\\\\\\" has been a high-minded mantra for the idea that virtually all students should take algebra by eighth grade. Since the mid-1990s, schools nationwide have pushed more and more students into challenging middle-school math courses. Last year, 38% of eighth-graders were enrolled in advanced math (Algebra I, Algebra II or Geometry).

But when Brookings Institution researcher Tom Loveless looked at the skills of eighth-graders taking advanced math, he found something startling: Between 2000 and 2005, the percentage of very low-performing students in advanced math classes more than tripled.

Using data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, he found that among the lowest-scoring 10% of kids, nearly 29% were taking advanced math, despite having very low skills.

How low? On par with a typical second-grader\\\\\\\'s, Loveless says. They lack a solid foundation in multiplication, division, fractions, decimals, rounding or place value. Yet they were tackling fairly sophisticated math.

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