Why Algebra 2 should be required for high school graduation

The detailed argument for including Algebra 2 in high school graduation requirements, by the provocateur who got UTeach off the ground, University of Texas-Austin physics professor Michael Marder:


My favorite bit discusses the assertion that requiring Algebra 2 causes many students to drop out of high school:

The most worrisome possibility to extract from these stories is that Algebra II is such a negative experience it can prevent students from finishing high school. The introduction of the 44 graduation plan in 2006 raised graduation requirements. Did it cause an increase in the number of students who hurled themselves against the increased standards and left? Was HB5 a necessary course correction so that students could leave school with at least some sort of degree?

There is no evidence for any of this. The Texas Education Agency has put effort into longitudinal measurement of graduation rates. I have done spot checks of some of their conclusions and found the same results. As shown in Figure 1, the percentage of students dropping out of high school has dropped considerably in the last seven years, including the period when the 44 curriculum became required. In fact, according to the most recent national data on high school graduation rates (Figure 1) Texas ranks at or near to the top in almost all categories; for low-income students Texas is second only to South Dakota. Thus part of the case against Algebra II has been a sense it is causing students to drop out of high school and damaging the Texas workforce, but this sense is hard to reconcile with the fact that Texas has simultaneously been part of the minority of states requiring Algebra II until now, and simultaneously has had top graduation rates.

So perhaps the antipathy toward including Algebra 2 in high school graduation requirements (as we have here in Florida) has more to do with the comfort of the grown-ups in the K-12 system than it does with the best interests of the students.

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