School district puts major focus on algebra to keep kids in school

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by MEG COYLE / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on September 29, 2010 at 6:39 PM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 29 at 6:41 PM

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. -- More than 16,000 children dropped out of school in Washington state last year and only 41 percent of high school sophomores are proficient in math.

Studies show those who struggle with algebra are more likely to quit school. The Federal Way school district is doing something about that, by making algebra more accessible to everyone.

Last year the district introduced a new way of preparing students to succeed in math through a program called, Algebraic Thinking. Created by the National Training Network, it specializes in coaching math teachers and curriculum development for teachers with low-performing math students.

"So, getting real clear about what the goal was and the goal was algebra-ready," says Federal Way Assistant Superintendent Joshua Garcia. "First, we have high quality teachers and what Algebraic Thinking does is help our teachers get better through their training, materials and coaching."

The district reports 70 percent of those enrolled in middle school Algebraic Thinking math classes in 2009 passed high school algebra in 2010 with a C-minus grade or higher.

Federal Way's improved math skills are helping to pave the way to college, says Garcia, because four-year college entrance requirements in Washington include passing high school algebra. Research has also shown that passing algebra also raises the likelihood of students staying in school and graduating.

"As a district, we outperformed the state," Garcia says.  "The numbers show we outperformed the state in math in every grade level on the state's standardized exam and that is pretty significant." 

All this week, NBC is presenting a special series, "Education Nation," an examination of the nation's public schools. Click here for more information.

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