Everybody commits a rash, thoughtless act now and again. But how often do we get a chance to take it back? The state Board of Education was just handed that opportunity and should not squander it. The board should consider a judge's temporary restraining order as a gift and rescind its decision to require that all eighth-graders take algebra within three years.

It was a foolish and punitive decision when it was made in July, pushed aggressively by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and it makes less sense now, after the state announced a deficit so large, school budgets might be cut to the point at which districts would have to close some schools altogether. With about half of students now taking algebra in eighth grade -- and less than half of those testing as proficient -- a 100% mandate was always going to be a hugely expensive undertaking, destined for failure under a three-year deadline. The state lacks the right textbooks. It doesn't have the right curriculum fully in place. It's short on top-notch math teachers, as well as coaches to help with math instruction in elementary schools, where children's weaknesses in math originate. What it does have is an overabundance of students who are not on track to take algebra by eighth grade and who are being set up for failure.