Proposition G — Offering Algebra 1 to Eighth Graders

See our March 2024 SF Election Guide for a nonpartisan analysis of measures and contests on the ballot in San Francisco for the election occurring March 5, 2024. Voters will consider the following proposition in that election.

Proposition G is a non-binding policy statement urging the San Francisco Unified School District to offer Algebra 1 courses to middle school students by the eighth grade and develop a coherent math curriculum for all grade levels, especially in elementary and middle school.

The measure is advisory only, meaning that the district, a public agency that operates separately from the city, isn’t obligated to implement its terms. It needs more than 50% affirmative votes to pass. And if approved by voters, it won’t require any action from the city nor incur any government cost.

Separately, the district has established a timeline to bring back the course in middle school. The new policy could be implemented as early as the next school year if the school board approves recommendations before the March 5, 2024, election.

San Francisco public schools replaced middle school algebra with Math 8, which covers similar concepts, such as linear equations, roots and exponents, after the district shifted to a new math policy in 2014. The change was an effort to reduce the number of Black, Latinx and low-income students who were failing Algebra 1.

Algebra 1 is considered a critical gateway to advanced math, as it is a prerequisite for courses like Advanced Placement Calculus and AP Statistics. Removing it from middle school avoids placing some students into more advanced tracks and creates “heterogeneous classrooms” throughout middle school.

The algebra debate in San Francisco resurfaced in 2021, following a recommendation by the state to change the math course sequence for all school districts statewide. The proposed framework was later revised and adopted in July 2023, indicating that California schools are encouraged, but not required, to delay offering Algebra 1 until ninth grade.

San Franciscans took a second look at the local program following the state’s proposed framework. In March 2023, parents sued the district, saying its math policy was holding students back. A Stanford analysis released that month revealed that while more students were taking precalculus under this policy, there were still notable racial disparities in the enrollment of advanced math courses. In response to these findings, the district reconsidered its policy and proposed a plan to reintroduce algebra in middle school.

San Francisco supervisors, despite not having authority over public school curriculum, are actively engaged in the algebra debate. Nearly half of them want San Francisco voters to weigh in on the March ballot. Supervisor Joel Engardio, the measure’s sponsor, sees it as a way to let voters have a say on the issue.

But Supervisor Shamann Walton warned at a Board of Supervisor meeting that even if the measure passes, it might not lead to tangible action. “I don’t like misleading the voters by making them think that we’re putting something on the ballot that has any teeth or that actually does anything, because this measure does not do anything,” he said.

Proponents of the measure say the existing math policy, while well-intentioned, hinders students capable of excelling in higher-level math and offers inadequate support to those who are struggling.

They argue that far from its original purpose of being more equitable, the policy hurts disadvantaged students. “Kids who stayed had to double up on math courses or pay for private classes to ensure they reach calculus by senior year,” they wrote in statements submitted to the city. Organizations like Neighbors for a Better San Francisco and SF Guardians, formerly known as Recall the School Board support this measure and paid to run dozens of support statements. The San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee also endorsed it.

No official opposition remarks were submitted.

A “yes” vote on Proposition G means you support the non-binding policy statement urging the district to offer Algebra 1 courses for middle school students by the eighth grade.

A “no” vote on Proposition G means you do not support the non-binding policy statement urging the district to offer Algebra 1 courses for middle school students by the eighth grade.

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