SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The San Francisco Unified School District is in the midst of developing a plan to make comprehensive and strategic adjustments to the district’s math curriculum.
Meredith Dodson, executive director of the San Francisco Parent Coalition, said, “Right now kids are falling behind. That’s why we’re calling on the district to act with urgency and offer a concrete plan to improve math learning outcomes.”
The coalition, a collective of over 6,000 public school parents and teachers, is urging the district to bring back 8th grade algebra.
Starting in 2014, the San Francisco Unified School District made a controversial, equity-focused mathematics reform to delay offering Algebra 1 until ninth grade, for all students.
The district made the reform in response to racial gaps among students passing algebra and progressing to higher level courses, such as AP calculus and AP statistics. EdWeek wrote that the district’s strategy aimed to “avoid the early sorting of students into high and low math tracks, a practice that disproportionately disadvantaged Black and Latino students.”
Taking algebra away from all 8th graders didn’t work, according to some educators. “It didn’t help more students from diverse backgrounds succeed in advanced math coursework,” the coalition wrote.
Forty-three percent of 8th graders in the district achieved grade-level standards for math, according to spring 2022 state standardized CAASPP tests. But only 6% of English Language Learners and 4% of Black students were 8th grade-level proficient in math, the coalition said.
An SFUSD spokesperson said the district is committed to improving student outcomes in 8th grade math and a thorough evaluation of SFUSD’s math policy on Algebra 1 is underway. “Working with educational experts, SFUSD is also embarking on a thoughtful process to make comprehensive and strategic adjustments to the district’s math curriculum, including an audit on SFUSD’s math curriculum, so that SFUSD students are set up for success,” the district spokesperson told KRON4.
San Francisco Supervisor Joel Engardio said the school district’s algebra policy was well-intended. But it “punishes” and “holds back” kids who love math and are prepared to tackle algebra, he said.
“The goal was to stop tracking kids based on ability and keep all students together until everyone was prepared to take advanced math classes,” Engardio wrote on X Monday.
Most school districts in the Bay Area teach basic algebra in the 8th grade, and some allow especially eager 7th graders to take it.
San Francisco public schools “stopped offering it in 8th grade algebra because not every student was prepared for it. How is that a solution?” Engardio asked. “Math-loving kids in San Francisco are punished because they won’t be able to take calculus coursework by high school graduation — and this hurts college options.”
There are slightly more than 50,000 students enrolled in SFUSD schools. The district has 13 middle schools and 14 high schools.
Engardio said San Francisco has become a tale of two school systems: public and private.
Private school enrollment is rising while public school enrollment declines. Some families are leaving the city altogether, partially because of the public school system, according to Engardio.
“A quarter of our kids attend private school, compared to only nine percent in California. A policy against 8th grade algebra is a big factor when families decide to leave public schools when their child reaches middle school,” Engardio wrote.
The school district said it will provide updates on progress in re-envisioning math policies and practices. SFUSD has scheduled a progress monitoring workshop on 8th grade math outcomes for Jan. 23, 2024, and proposed recommendations for math policy reform will be heard by the SF Board of Education on Feb. 13, 2024.