Updated at 7:16 a.m. Aug. 3
Cambridge Public Schools will phase Algebra 1 back into eighth grade math courses over the next few years. The district has faced a wave of pushback from parents and community leaders over the curriculum in recent weeks, though school officials say the reintroduction plan has long been in the works.
Superintendent Victoria Greer told GBH News' Meg Woolhouse that three of seven total units will be reintroduced in the coming school year.
"Eighth grade students will receive a combination of eighth grade general mathematics, along with three of the Algebra 1 units," she explained.
Algebra 1 had previously been taught in eighth grade advanced math courses, but back in 2017, the district started eliminating advanced math courses in its middle schools — known as "de-leveling" — in an effort to close racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps.
Cambridge Public Schools initially planned to introduce the lessons into the remaining math courses all eighth graders take, but school officials say those efforts were thwarted by the pandemic.
As of this past June, Algebra 1 material was not covered at all in eighth grade math. That prompted Cambridge City Councilor Patty Nolan to accuse CPS of "leveling down" and pushing students behind their peers in other districts.
"Why aren't we giving algebra to all students? Why are we literally putting inequity, making it into the school day?" Nolan asked. “The students are capable, given the correct support and appropriate teaching."
Superintendent Greer argued that a gradual, phased-in approach is important to ensure students will have a chance to succeed.
"We are not leveling down," she said. “We are moving at a pace that we're able to do to meet everyone's needs but do it in a way that we can be successful, not just put the course in. We want to offer algebra 1 so that our students can access it and our students can also get the skills that they need.”
Local officials plan to further discuss the eighth grade math curriculum at the next school committee meeting on Aug. 8.
Correction: A previous version of this story mischaracterized the level of algebra that will be phased back into Cambridge's eighth grade math curriculum.