“There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the process, but I’m glad they gave us two years because the state has been telling us for a long time that eighth-graders need to be in Algebra I,” said Assistant Supt. Jan Britz. “But it is still a big shift, because as of last year 763 students were in general math and only 418 in Algebra I. That’s a big number of students to move over.”

School officials are planning some changes to meet the requirement such as phasing out Algebra B. Next year, some eighth-graders will take Algebra A and follow with Algebra I in ninth grade, she said. It is a better option for those students because the course reviews the lessons learned in Algebra I, Britz said.

The remainder will enroll in Algebra I. More intervention classes may also be added to assist sixth- and seventh-graders who have learning gaps to help catch them up to the eighth-grade standards, she said.

Although only 40% of eighth-graders were enrolled in Algebra I at the start of the school year, that number has increased to 55% during the past few weeks.

“We were lagging a little bit behind, but we changed our pathway . . . we did some work at the beginning of the year such as diagnostic testing with eighth-graders,” Britz said. “The schools did a good job monitoring students’ math skills to move them over.”

The district’s statistics are in line with 2007 state figures, which showed that 52% of eighth-graders were registered in Algebra I. At the seventh-grade level, the district is also above state 2008 statistics — 47% compared with 41%, according to the report.

The mandate changes the original intent of course standards for math that were developed in 1997, said Deputy Supt. Joel Shapiro.

“The standards did not tie courses such as Algebra I to any grade level, which allowed us to build courses that gave students the opportunity to be successful,” Shapiro said. “We agree with other districts in that tying the classes to a particular grade offers us less flexibility.”

ALISON TULLY covers City Hall and public safety. She may be reached at (818) 637-3242 or by e-mail at alison.tully@ latimes.com.