Algebra required for students to graduate

It’s official. This year’s sixth-graders will have to pass a required algebra course to graduate from high school in Federal Way.

The requirement, approved Tuesday by the Federal Way School Board, does not specify when a student must take algebra, though many probably would take it in preparation for the 10th-grade Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL).

Students who take algebra in junior high or who can demonstrate competency in the subject will be able to test out of the course at the high school level.

Board member Charlie Hoff said the district should implement standards for the class so students aren’t passing without a working knowledge of algebra.

“I get concerned when I see people with passing grades who do not have ... the fundamental skills the title of that course would suggest,” he said.

Besides, algebra is good for more than just passing the WASL, though that’s the major reason the board opted to make it a requirement.

“Just everyday life requires more algebra than folks think,” board member Earl VanDorien said.

Many vocational careers make regular use of algebraic principles. So do household projects, like building a deck, adding a fence or planting a garden.

Algebra also hones students’ critical thinking skills, even for non-mathematic, everyday problems.

Community advisory committee president Audrey Germanis told the board there were members of the community opposed to required algebra because some kids might fall further behind if they have to pass an additional math class.

Prior to the board’s decision, high school students were required to take three math credits with no specifications as to what the classes had to be. Now, one of those three classes must be algebra.

But the algebra requirement, which follows a board-approved, pre-algebra requirement in middle school, is just a step on the road to making all kids, grades one through 12, more math-proficient.

“If we can get better math scores in elementary school, algebra won’t be much of a problem,” VanDorien said.

Staff writer Erica Jahn can be reached at 925-5565 and

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