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Making algebra count

Gary Moskowitz

Three years ago, Kyle Jones had a D in high school algebra, and he

wasn’t particularly bothered by it.

But Kyle’s approach to his studies changed with a California law


that requires all high school students, starting with the class of

2004, to complete algebra I in order to graduate.

The law, passed in 2000, applies to all students, including

special-education students, English learners and students enrolled in


continuation schools.

Kyle, a John Burroughs High School senior, is now earning an A+ in

his second year of a two-year algebra course offered at the school to

students who struggle with the subject.

“I was just being lazy when I took algebra the first time,” said

Kyle, 17. “I’m trying harder now, because I want to go to college,

probably junior college at first. I think I can handle it.

“When I was a freshman, I wasn’t aware of college requirements and


stuff like that. Now I realize I have a lot ahead of me. I think the

[algebra graduation requirement] is fair.”

For the Burbank and Glendale unified school districts, algebra as

a high school graduation requirement is nothing new.

Burbank’s school board voted in 2001 to require algebra as a

graduation requirement. Glendale’s school board voted in 1997 to

require all of its students to take algebra and geometry in order to



Both districts have since implemented two-year algebra programs

and extra tutoring for students who need more time and personal

attention in understanding algebraic concepts. Burbank students who

meet the algebra requirement and want to take more classes can take

geometry, algebra II, pre-calculus and Advanced Placement calculus,

officials said.

District officials in both cities said the state’s algebra

requirement is good for students, because it prepares them better for

college and holds them to higher academic standards.

“It’s making math more rigorous,” said Sharon Cuseo, assistant

principal at John Burroughs High School. “Middle schools have made

changes, too. They are offering algebra as early as seventh grade.”