From the Atlantic to the Pacific, educators are coming up with the same conclusion – obvious enough to the kids and probably their parents – standardized tests and policies that require kids to learn difficult topics before they're ready actually hurt math and science education.
From the British newspaper the Guardian comes this report:
Children's interest in science and their understanding of it are being crushed by the compulsory tests they sit at primary school, leading professors argue today. Pupils in England are being taught to perform well in the tests, rather than having their "natural curiosity of science cultivated and harnessed", researchers from Bristol and Durham Universities will say in a report.
That meshes pretty well with this conclusion about California's standard that all eighth-graders be taught Algebra.
Across the country, "you have 120,000 kids sitting in algebra and geometry classes and they don't know how to multiply and divide," Brookings senior fellow Tom Lawless said. "That's an absurd situation. They're not going to learn anything. And the kids who are sitting next to them, who are well prepared, are not going to learn anything either" because their learning will be slowed down.
As a California parent, I can vouch that the Algebra requirements are ridiculous. In my son's class there were students who hadn't ever touched pre-Algebra. More importantly, very bright kids were absolutely bored to death as the teacher determinedly drilled the material into their unwilling heads. It was very clear that these kids weren't ready for this level of abstract reasoning. Kids' brains are developing like crazy at this age and it's totally appropriate to let their brains catch up to the material at hand.