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Eighth Grade Algebra 1 Courses Delayed Until 2026, Cambridge Officials Say

The Cambridge School Committee generally meets in the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School.
The Cambridge School Committee generally meets in the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. By Joey Huang
By Darcy G Lin, Crimson Staff Writer

Cambridge Public Schools officials said the city’s latest attempt to implement Algebra 1 courses for all eighth graders will be delayed one year, another setback after three decades of back-and-forth over efforts to require the advanced mathematics course before high school.

The School Committee is now considering a request to the district to develop a plan to offer the course at middle schools across the city, but it remains unclear whether district leadership will be able to meet their request by the start of the next school year.

The Cambridge School Committee resolved last fall to implement the course for all eighth graders by the 2025-2026 school year. But Cambridge Public Schools Director of Mathematics Siobahn Mulligan said earlier this month that the district was not ready to implement the new policy by that target year.

“Are we on track to achieving this goal?” Mulligan said during a June 11 meeting of the Curriculum & Achievement Subcommittee. “I will simply say, ‘no.’” Still, she insisted that the district was “very close” and intends to implement the change for the 2026-2027 school year.

One week later, on June 18, the School Committee considered a motion from members Elizabeth C.P. Hudson and Richard Harding, Jr. asking district officials to “provide an option for Upper Schools to cover Algebra I, during the school day, for the 2025-2026 school year.” The motion was referred to the Curriculum & Achievement Subcommittee.

“I want to recognize that we made a commitment to parents and parents made a decision based on that commitment,” Hudson said.

School Committee members also warned that without an in-school option, students wishing to prepare for Algebra 1 would have to do so outside of school — an outcome they said would reduce time for other extracurriculars and perpetuate educational inequity.

“I don’t want to continue to have a system where some kids are accessing it, and other kids aren’t,” Harding said.

Hudson and Harding’s motion did not specify what the option for Algebra 1 would be, instead deferring to the district to propose a plan. But Hudson said the workaround would likely not be part of the Illustrative Math curriculum, a K-12 standardized math curriculum that CPS adopted last May across all schools.

Mulligan said that the plan was delayed to give students sufficient time to prepare for Algebra 1 by the time they reached eighth grade.

Following the original plan, Mulligan said, incoming seventh graders would have missed 127 lessons by the time they reached Algebra 1.

Under the revised plan, CPS will roll out an accelerated Illustrative Math curriculum for sixth graders when the academic year begins in September, while the seventh and eighth grade curriculum will remain the same. Incoming sixth graders will be the first cohort to access Algebra 1 in the 2026-2027 school year.

Mulligan also said the Illustrative Math curriculum allowed the district to align math curriculum across the district, opening the doors for collaboration and professional development opportunities across schools.

Next year, CPS will debut Math Labs, a professional development program for groups of teachers at different schools. Under Math Labs, Mulligan said, “small cohorts from across the district” will plan, teach, and debrief a lesson — all as a group.

Though the School Committee voted to refer the motion to the subcommittee, Hudson still encouraged her colleagues to “keep an eye on the timeline” in future discussions of the motion in order to ensure communication to parents, administrators, and teachers occurs in a timely fashion.

“I understand that we don’t want to be too hasty, but there’s also great danger in being too late,” she said.

—Staff writer Darcy G Lin can be reached at darcy.lin@thecrimson.com.

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