Dear Judy:

I am the proud father of two bright girls in 8th grade. Both have excelled in school overall, especially in math. One of them was provided with 8th grade math Regents this year and the other (who also scored over a 3 on the 7th grade state exam but slightly lower than her sister) did not make it into Regents.

Is it acceptable for the school  to use a certain grade on the 7th grade state exam as the sole criteria for Regents class acceptance? If so, what right do I have to know whether the school truly followed this "test score" criteria as the approach for determining acceptance? Is there any way my daughter can still take the Regents without being in a Regents Class? It is my understanding that some NYC schools allow Level 2 students to take the Regents. If so, why not my daughter?

In my opinion, the City has done great with creating assessment tools whereby parents can go online and monitor their child's development, track their progress, and work with their school leaders to foster their academic development. How does all of that help my daughter if I have to explain to her that she did great yet she doesn't deserve to take the class??

Proud Father of Twins

Dear Dad: 

It is up to each school to decide who will be assigned to a Regents class and who will not. You should speak with the assistant principal of math, or whomever oversees the math department, as well as the principal. Ask them how they arrived at the policy and did they use it fairly in relation to your daughter.

Try to persuade the school to allow her to take a Regents-level algebra class. If that doesn't work, and if you think your daughter will be able to pass the Regents, and do well, without being in the Regents class, you can request that she take the exam when the time comes. Lots of Regents prep and study with her twin could prepare her. However, the school does not have to comply. 

Chances are the assignment to algebra had to do with too many eligible kids, so the school arbitrarily cut off enrollment. You can reassure your daughter that such outcomes are not a reflection on her—merely a fact of life in school and afterwards. It's tough being in competition with your sister in the same school and it is hard on parents too. It is clear from your email that you are proud of both girls. It's important for them to know that, no matter what math course they take. 

She is likely taking a pre-algebra course that will prepare her for the 9th grade. I know many people are concerned that unless you get the Algebra Regents exam out of the way before high school, you won't have time to take all higher level math courses, including calculus, by the time you graduate. That is a reasonable concern but keep in mind that the math curriculum is gradually transitioning to align with the Common Core standards, so the sequence we are used to may change.

As to your question about whether lower achievers (at least measured by the state exams) are allowed to take the Regents in 8th grade, once again that's up to each school. However, research shows that algebra may not be a help, but rather it may be a turn-off if the student is not yet ready to tackle the work. Linda Gojack of NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) told us that some kids aren't ready for Algebra I in 8th grade. She pointed to research that shows it doesn't necessarily help kids graduate on time or get into college, and it can turn them off math for good. On the other hand, algebra for all has been a goal to expose kids to rigorous math, no matter where it lands them in high school. Here's a link to the research at Brookings, a public policy organization:

In a previous post I pointed out that taking the Regents in 8th grade is a mixed bag, with downsides, if your child is not prepared. 

In the meantime, the task of applying to high school is now at hand and the lack of Regents algebra won't affect her application. The applications are due well before the Regents are taken—7th-grade grades and scores apply. Good luck for a good year and a good high school search.


Update October 19, 2013 : The State Education Department has just proposed that 8th graders who take Regents Algebra skip the 8th-grade state math test. The proposal comes up for discussion at the Regents meeting October 21 and if approved, must get clearance from the U.S. Department of Education.