Peering beneath the hood of a national push to have all students take algebra by eighth grade, a new study finds that many of the nation’s lowest-performing middle-schoolers are in way over their heads, reports USA Today. They take algebra and other advanced math courses before they’ve mastered basic skills such as multiplication, division, and problem-solving with fractions. For more than a decade, "algebra for everyone" has been a high-minded mantra for the idea that virtually all students should take algebra by eighth grade—a plan that California now has mandated in one of the nation’s most high-profile examples. But when Brookings Institution researcher Tom Loveless looked at the skills of eighth-graders taking advanced math, he found something startling: Between 2000 and 2005, the percentage of very low-performing students in advanced math classes more than tripled. Using data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, he found that among the lowest-scoring 10 percent of kids, nearly 29 percent were taking advanced math, despite having very low skills…

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