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Cambridge School Committee Advances Motion Expanding Algebra 1 Across Cambridge Middle Schools

The Cambridge Rindge and Latin School is one of the schools in the Cambridge Public Schools district.
The Cambridge Rindge and Latin School is one of the schools in the Cambridge Public Schools district. By Andrew W.D. Aoyama
By Sally E. Edwards and Dylan H. Phan, Crimson Staff Writers

The Cambridge School Committee referred a motion to establish Algebra 1 education in all eighth grade classrooms by 2025 to the district‘s superintendent on Tuesday, as students returned to classes for the 2023-24 academic year.

This motion will support Superintendent Victoria L. Greer’s plan to expand Algebra 1 across Cambridge Public Schools middle schools, which was introduced in August.

The vote comes after a summer of concerns surrounding the district’s current mathematics curriculum, which does not offer a complete Algebra 1 course before high school. Tuesday’s motion marked the latest step in the district’s more than 30-year push to establish a comprehensive Algebra 1 curriculum for eighth graders.

David J. Weinstein — a School Committee member who jointly introduced the motion alongside two other members — said he believes the initiative will be more likely to succeed than its historical counterparts. He credited this to the Illustrative Mathematics curriculum, which will standardize math preparation across the district. CPS adopted the curriculum, developed by McGraw Hill Education, in May.

“This will now be consistent across the entire district, so we can also better ensure that all kids in Cambridge have the same kind of preparation and sequencing for math by the time they get to eighth grade,” Weinstein said. “That’s part of what I think will be different, because I think we can have more consistency in the way math instruction is happening.”

Greer presented her plan to gradually increase Algebra 1 content in the eighth grade math curriculum during an Aug. 8 school committee meeting. Under Greer’s plan, all Algebra 1 concepts will be fully integrated into the curriculum by 2025.

Hannah E. Erickson, a junior at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, said in an interview that student involvement and engagement will be crucial to enacting the motion.

“The most important thing with implementing this is we keep talking to teachers, and getting feedback, and checking in constantly, and really talking to students — which I personally don’t feel happens anywhere near enough,” Erickson said. “Students are aware of what’s going on around them, and a lot of the time are not able to share that.”

Erickson was unable to take Algebra 1 at her public middle school in Cambridge prior to starting at CRLS. Though she ultimately self-taught herself Algebra 1 in the summer before high school, Erickson said she believes that she entered CRLS “at a disadvantage.”

“I was having to reteach myself concepts that had been taught to my peers in eighth grade,” Erickson said. “Taking a class in school is so much more beneficial and leads to more cohesive understanding of curriculum.”

Weinstein said the district’s plan to expand Algebra 1 education to all eighth grade students will set “a high floor for our students,” which will involve “supporting them to get there.”

“I and others on the committee are really committed to seeing this through, and seeing this through in a way that is consistent with our equity and anti-racism commitments,” Weinstein said.

Correction: October 20, 2023

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the School Committee voted in favor of the motion to expand Algebra 1. In fact, they voted to refer the motion to the district’s superintendent.

—Staff Writer Sally E. Edwards can be reached at Follow her on X @sallyedwards04.

—Staff writer Dylan H. Phan can be reached at Follow him on X @dylanhieuphan.

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