UPDATE: I guess I wasn't clear. Here's the gist of the post:
In order to meet the "algebra 1 in 8th grade" state requirement, the St. Paul school district has made algebra 1 a two year course that begins in 8th and ends in 9th.
Since the NMAP final report suggested that states move as much as possible to a math curriculum that taught Algebra 1 in 8th grade (thereby matching many international countries' standards), many states have decreed Algebra 1 will be taught in 8th grade. Like many states, Minnesota has mandated such.
The new law states that by the 2010-2011 school year, all public schools will offer "algebra 1" in 8th grade. That course will no longer be available for credit in high school--if a student needs it again, it will not count toward grad requirements.
The MN standards for this 8th grade course, however, are not a full year of algebra 1. They instead cover the algebra of the line: linear functions, linear equalities. At least one of the authors of the standards told me himself that he felt a full fledged algebra 1 course was not appropriate in 8th grade. The standards for an "authentic algebra" course are actually defined by the end of an algebra sequence--including algebra 2.
So what of the gap between?
The rest of an "authentic algebra" course as defined by NMAP
must go somewhere right?
Well, here's St. Paul's solution:
Grade Level: 9 High School
Subject Area: Mathematics
Course Number: M403011
Course Title: Intermediate Algebra (Reg 9)
Course Length: 1 Year
Prerequisite: Algebra 1
This course covers the second half of a traditional Algebra 1 course. It extends from polynomials, through quadratic and exponential functions.
Topics covered include:
1. Exponents and Polynomials
2. Factoring Polynomials
3. Quadratic Functions and Equations
4. Data Analysis and Probability
5. Exponential and Radical Functions
6. Rational Functions and Equations
the first half of algebra 1 is now taught for an entire year in 8th grade. The second half of algebra 1 is now taught for an entire year in 9th grade. Why, we've sure accelerated our math program up to that international standard, haven't we!
To the parents, though, this is a fraud. Their children are taking 8th grade algebra 1, they think. But they do not know that algebra 1/2 is now being taught for a year, and algebra 1/2-1 is another year. Their kids are still not going to reach AP calc.
And if you're interested in how you get to algebra in 8th grade:
Unfortunately, MN didn't change the standards leading up to 8th grade. Those changes to curricula in grades 4-7 are required by 2014. No changes in teacher certification have been mandated at all.