Algebra 2 will become an optional course for high school students pursuing a standard diploma under legislation Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed today. Advocates say this and other changes to Florida graduation requirements (only adopted in 2010) aim to give students more flexibility as they prepare for various career paths. But the action seems to raise questions about fidelity to the Common Core State Standards in Florida. Indeed, this may prove a thorny issue in other states, too.
In math, the common standards call for all students to meet algebra learning objectives akin to what one would expect in Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 courses, several experts tell me, including the ability to reason with and apply that mathematics. (Indeed, one “model pathway”outlined in an appendix to the standards suggests students take Algebra 1, Geometry, and then Algebra 2. Another is for “integrated” courses that blend concepts in algebra, geometry, and other math knowledge in the standards.)
The Florida legislation, which won strong, bipartisan majorities in the state’s Republican-controlled House and Senate, is intended to designate “multiple pathways” for demonstrating the skills and knowledge required of high school graduates. Those include a “scholar designation” for students planning to attend a four-year college, as well as a “merit designation” that involves pursuing industry certifications for some high school credit.
Maybe they just won’t be “college and career ready.” A diploma for students desiring less “rigor” (snort). Alissa Peltzman, one of Achieve’s vice presidents said that is one of her worse fears.
“The thing that’s been my 2 a.m. at night [fear] is this idea that the common core is not going to end up being for all kids,” she said. “Implementation of the common core will require states to look differently at the high school experience.”
Peltzman was quick to note that just because a course is called Algebra 2 doesn’t mean it meets the objectives of the common core. (Indeed, a recent study from the National Center for Education Statistics finds that many high school math courses do not live up to their titles with commensurate rigor.)