Culture, Politics, States

The Catastrophe of Leftist-Led “Education Reform”

San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) adopted a detracking initiative in 2014-2015 school year, eliminating accelerated middle and high school math classes, including the option for advanced students to take Algebra I in eighth grade. The policy stands today. High schools feature a common math sequence of heterogeneously grouped classes studying Algebra I in ninth grade and Geometry in tenth grade. After 10th grade, students are allowed to take math courses reflecting different abilities and interests.

Implementing Common Core was provided as the impetus for the change. When first proposed, district officials summed up the reform as, “There would no longer be honors or gifted mathematics classes, and there would no longer be Algebra I in 8th grade due to the Common Core State Standards in 8th grade.” Parents received a flyer from the district reinforcing this message, explaining, “The Common Core State Standards in Math (CCSS-M) require a change in the course sequence for mathematics in grades 6-12.” Phi Daro, one of Common Core’s co-authors, served as a consultant to the district on both the design and political strategy of the detracking plan.

The policy was controversial from the start. Parents showed up in community meetings to voice opposition, and a petition urging the district to reverse the change began circulating. District officials launched a public relations campaign to justify the policy. Focused on the goal of greater equity, that campaign continues today. SFUSD declared detracking a great success, claiming that the graduating class of 2018–19, the first graduating class affected by the policy when in eighth grade, saw a drop in Algebra 1 repeat rates from 40% to 8% and that, compared to the previous year, about 10% more students in the class took math courses beyond Algebra 2. Moreover, the district reported enrollment gains by Black and Hispanic students in advanced courses. Read more…

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