The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today will announce a $1.3-million grant to Los Angeles schools to improve the teaching of algebra and other college-prep courses.
The investment is modest compared to other Gates grants and even other school district initiatives, but marks a growing partnership between the nation's second-largest school system and perhaps the world's largest private philanthropic fund.
The one-year grant will pay for teacher training and curriculum design. The hope is to build on documented achievement gains at the elementary level. Progress has been sluggish at middle schools and high schools in Los Angeles and nationwide.
The school system's experience with Algebra 1 symbolizes both the aspirations and limitations of local reforms. Los Angeles Unified School District officials initially trumpeted their strategy to put nearly all students into algebra courses in the eighth grade. But as many as 45% of students failed the class, pushing some students, in effect, more toward the dropout track than the college track.