The Student News Site of Lowell High School

The Lowell

The Student News Site of Lowell High School

The Lowell

The Student News Site of Lowell High School

The Lowell

SFUSD opens debate over eighth grade Algebra 1

Emily Yee

An ongoing fight to restore eighth grade algebra at San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) middle schools has made its way onto the March 2024 ballot following a 10-to-1 vote at the Nov. 14 San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting. The measure would make it City policy to encourage the School District to offer Algebra 1 in eighth grade although, as the ballot proposition digest explains, “The San Francisco Unified School District is a public agency that is separate from the City.” meaning the approval of the proposition would not force the district to implement the course. District staff and the Board of Education have the ultimate say on restoring eighth grade algebra. 

Offering Algebra 1 in middle school has been an issue of debate in San Francisco since the district eliminated the course in 2014 in an effort to increase equity by providing more time for students who struggle in math to prepare. The move came as part of a statewide shift toward Common Core math curriculum and standards which included removal of state incentives for districts to offer Algebra 1 in eighth grade leading to SFUSD, among other districts, to remove or reduce their eighth grade Algebra offerings. 

The change drew criticism from political action groups including Families for San Francisco which published a report disputing many of the benefits SFUSD claims the removal of eighth grade algebra provided. The policy change resulted in the current SFUSD math sequence, requiring those who want to take calculus in high school in order to look good on college applications or further their passions for math, to double up in math classes, take a compression course, or take math classes outside of SFUSD. These outside classes require going to a private middle school or spending upwards of $700 for a University of California approved online Algebra 1 class.

Current SFUSD recommended sequence of high school math classes. Photo Courtesy of SFUSD Math Department

Barriers including limited schedules and the high cost of outside classes have harmed Lowell students’ abilities to take calculus classes. These barriers forced senior Nelson Zhang, who attended Francisco Middle School, into a challenging compression course that he saw many of his peers drop after the first test. “I was forced onto the compression pathway because my schedule was too full to double up and City College classes are highly limited,” Zhang said. “The compression class has the highest drop rate of any course at this school.” Others, including senior Logan Ragland, who attended Denman Middle School, weren’t able to take calculus despite their desires to. “I wasn’t able to get to [calculus] because I was recommended not to take a summer course and after that it was too late. I’ve always done well in math and I believe it is important for college [applications] so the fact [calculus] is so difficult to access is a real issue,” Ragland said.

Several Lowell students believe that the district’s current policy is inequitable for those who attend SFUSD middle schools as they don’t have access to eighth grade algebra, like their private school peers. Senior Sadie Oliver, who attended Aptos Middle School, believes that while the district may have had good intentions in terms of equity, when the decision to remove eighth grade algebra was made, the change didn’t actually level the playing field. “People whose parents are able to push them to take summer classes or test out means that those with support get ahead and have more chances than those who don’t,” Oliver said. Zhang also believes the current policy puts public school students at a disadvantage. “The district should at least offer the opportunity for students to take eighth grade algebra because other school districts and other private middle schools are providing that opportunity,” Zhang said. 

“People whose parents are able to push them to take summer classes or test out means that those with support get ahead and have more chances than those who don’t.”

— Sadie Oliver

In an October 2023 press release, SFUSD announced that it will target restoring eighth grade algebra in the 2024-25 school year. It is unclear what effect the ballot measure will have on the district’s decisions, but the ballot measure highlights the community’s focus on the issue. Ultimately, the ability of future Lowellites to take eighth grade algebra will be up to the district to decide.

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About the Contributors
Hayden Miller, Reporter
He/Him Hayden Miller is a Senior and a reporter for the Lowell. Hayden serves on the San Francisco Youth Commission and is an advocate for better public transportation throughout California. When he is not in a government meeting, you can find Hayden enjoying a burrito, on a bus in rural Northern California, or biking with friends.
Emily Yee, Illustrator
Any Emily Yee is a senior at Lowell. She is very cool and amazing and awesome.

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