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District may add more math

Administrators consider having eighth-graders take algebra plus a math elective course.

January 17, 2009|By Zain Shauk

CITY HALL — Burbank Unified School District administrators Thursday proposed giving some middle school students two math classes to help improve performance.

The suggestion came during a report presented to the Board of Education showing strong midyear eighth-grade algebra scores during the first year of an effort to enroll all students in algebra classes before they reach high school.

All eighth-graders this year are enrolled in algebra courses, at the least, following a two-year effort to transition sixth- and seventh-grade curricula to incorporate more algebraic principles in advance of formal algebra courses, said Jan Britz, assistant superintendent for instructional services.

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“We want children to experience success in algebra, and we think we have some strategies in mind,” Supt. Gregory Bowman said of the current progress of district students.

While the effort to move more students into algebra classes was spurred by the district’s low enrollment in the landmark courses compared with state averages, its grade-wide milestone comes amid controversy at the state level surrounding eighth-grade algebra.

California’s Board of Education voted July 9 to make algebra classes mandatory for all eighth-graders, but the decision was challenged in court by the California School Boards Assn. and Jack O’Connell, the state superintendent of public instruction, among others, who argued that the mandate was irresponsible for the state board to have made without providing financial assistance for schools to make the transition.

The Sacramento Superior Court ruled Dec. 19 to uphold a preliminary injunction on the mandate, a decision that is being appealed by the state board.

Burbank Unified is one of many districts now in compliance with the mandate, regardless of whether it is passed, although officials had been preparing for the shift in advance of other districts, Bowman said.

But more progress with complicated math concepts needs to be made and would be inhibited without additional attention for some students, which could begin as early as the sixth grade, Britz said.

The concept, although it is still being developed, would involve replacing elective courses for some students with an extra math intervention course, in addition to their normal math classes, Britz said.

The additional class session would give struggling students extra attention to develop their skills and help them progress in other classes, Britz said.

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