SFUSD Algebra 1 re-take Statistics

I stumbled across some criticism of SFUSD’s de-tracking evangelism from a parent group in this post (link 17):

This led me down a rabbit hole to see whether there was any legitimacy to the criticism. I found out that there was.

SFUSD made some changes to de-track in 2015. They then saw that the number of students who had to retake Algebra 1 dropped from 40% to 8%. They advertised these stats a bunch (even Jo Boaler got in on the action ).

Then, a group called Families of San Francisco criticized them for misrepresenting the data. See Inequity in Numbers

It turns out that the same year, the criteria for which students had to retake the course changed. Before 2015, students had to take a state assessment and were forced to retake the Algebra course if they failed the state assessment. In 2015 this requirement got removed.

Here’s someone presenting the data with the caveat around 26min in at NCTM 2020. The slide speaker notes say “we saw as a one time major drop due to the blocking of students due to grades and state exam.”

Overall, I agree with the goals of SFUSD - de-tracking, reducing the breadth of scope of the curriculum to allow for more depth, emphasizing AP Stats as an option rather than just AP Calc. However, this presentation of the data is very misleading and undermines their credibility.

I think there is a positive story here. Even though a lot fewer students were forced to re-take Algebra 1, SBAC scores for this cohort seem to have stayed the same. So it seems that these students didn’t really benefit from being forced to retake Algebra 1. SFUSD got rid of a lot of misery and stress for these students, and had no negative impact on this outcome. In my book, that's a win!

It would be interesting to investigate other outcome measures to see if removing the Algebra 1 retake requirement negatively affected students. How many students take APs? What scores do they get? Are students being as successful getting into college? Are they doing well in college? If none of these things changed after students were no longer forced to re-take Algebra 1, then I say good riddance!