This summer, for the first time since the Partnership began, eighth graders in our New York schools took the Algebra 1 Regents Exam—and 67 young mathematicians passed the test, which means they earned high school credit for math they did in middle school. Getting them there was a three-year project that our curriculum team and fearless teachers persisted with, even as the pandemic caused widespread learning disruptions.
As a result, while the NWEA estimates that 2022 eighth-graders may need as much as five years to make up for the learning delays of the pandemic, Partnership students continued to make progress. And mastering Algebra 1 before high school means students can continue progressing—into higher-level math and science classes that are the gateway to STEM careers.
Algebra is the single most failed course in high school and community college and a leading cause of the high community college dropout rate. It is a gatekeeper for so many students—which makes our students’ mastery of it in eighth grade all the more impactful.
“They did it! We did it, together.”
Coral Elias, who has taught middle school math at Sacred Heart School for nine years, had the highest passing rate in our network. As Vice President of Academics Maggie Johnson explains, “Coral is a genuine master of her content. She knows precisely what her students need to take away at the end of the day and crafts each lesson with so much intentionality to get there. She makes it look effortless, but we know the systematic planning she does to map each lesson so every single student in her room is with her. To watch her persist with a struggling student, nimbly feeding the information they need to “get it” without taking away the challenge—and never doubting that they can answer the questions she’s chosen for them—is a thing of beauty.”
Here’s what Coral has to say about the students’ Algebra 1 Regents results:
I am so proud of them. They were so worried, but at the same time they were excited to take the exam. And look: They did it! We did it, together.
The eighth graders finished classes before everyone else weeks before the exam, but I created two Regents prep sessions every day, and they came, even when they weren’t required to.
I was telling one of the students who tried and did not pass, don’t worry; you’ll have a chance to take it again next year. So next year will be like a review, and students will have an opportunity to take the test again.
Middle schoolers are not easy, but they are eager to follow your directions if you give them specific steps. My style from day one is to follow a routine. This year in particular when the math started to get harder, I was on top of our routine every day, and that was so important.
My personal routine is important too. My attendance is almost perfect. I learned from my mom, who was a teacher and principal in Puerto Rico, that if you are absent one day, your students aren’t going to learn something they need to learn. So unless I’m sick, I’m there, and that’s important.
Algebra is my favorite subject and has been since I was in middle school. The polynomials—I love it! When I was in college, I was doing accounting, not teaching. A professor saw my ability to help another student learn to do the math, and she encouraged me to become a teacher.
I love Sacred Heart. I have been here for nine years. I love every morning to pray together with the students, to present the day to God. This is not a big school; we are a family. Abi Akano, our principal—I don’t have the words to describe her: She is strict but really human, and the support I have from her is amazing.
When she called me to share how the students did on the Regents exam, I was so happy.
And so are we.