Study: Algebra class may come too early for some 8th-graders

More kids than ever are taking algebra in eighth grade but not necessarily learning more math, private researchers report.

In fact, while eighth-graders are doing better on national math tests, students in advanced classes are faring worse, according to the study being released today by the Brookings Institution.

“We have kids who are misplaced in their math classes,” said Tom Loveless, the study's author. “They don't know very much math at all and yet they're taking courses in advanced math.”

The study takes a provocative look at a subject many people view as a matter of racial equality. Once unavailable to many minority and poor children, algebra is becoming widely accepted as a must-have for eighth-graders.

Algebra is considered a “gateway” course for higher learning.

President Clinton made eighth-grade algebra a priority, and an influential book labeled algebra “The New Civil Right.”

Enrollment doubled from 1990 to 2007, when nearly one-third of all eighth-graders were taking algebra.

In July, California decided that all eighth-graders should take algebra; Minnesota did so in 2006.