No longer a charter, Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology will require algebra for admission

The state's top performing high school, the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology, will no longer be a charter school in 2016-2017, enabling it to impose an algebra requirement for fall admissions.

Gwinnett County school leaders opened the school in 2007 to engage students interested in math and science.  As a charter school, GSMST could not set academic admissions requirements. 

Since GSMST will not be a charter school next year, Gwinnett spokeswoman Sloan Roach confirmed algebra will be required. Nine years of data showed having algebra in middle school was a key determinant in success at GSMST, she said.

She said Gwinnett parents have been informed of the new algebra requirement.

According to the school site , eligible applicants must now meet three criteria:
•The student and their custodial parent(s) or legal guardian(s) must currently reside within the Gwinnett County Public Schools' attendance zone (anywhere in Gwinnett County, outside the city limits of Buford).

•The student must be currently enrolled in a recognized 8th grade curriculum and complete all promotion requirements to ninth grade status by the end of spring semester, 2016.  (Students who have applied to previous GSMST lotteries or students who are currently designated as 9th through 12th graders are not eligible.)

•The student must be currently enrolled in and successfully complete a full unit of Carnegie-eligible (high school) Algebra or higher.  (Students currently taking pre-Algebra, Introduction to Algebra/Geometry, or the equivalent are not eligible.)

GSMST was up for charter renewal this year. Unlike magnet schools,  charters cannot have admission requirements.  They must be open and accessible to all students, and, if oversubscribed as GSMST has been, rely on a lottery to award seats.

The Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology is not renewing its charter next year.

In a letter to the state, GSMST said, "While we will not seek charter renewal, we will continue to design, build, and implement instructional programs focused on offering high-level, challenging programs of advanced studies in mathematics, science, and technology to our students. As we return to GCPS public school status, we will continue to partner with universities, colleges, business, industry and parents to provide students the appropriate academic, technical, and employment skills needed to successfully enter post-secondary institutions and/or the workforce."

I asked Roach about rumors the new middle school in Duluth would be a math and science magnet and serve as a feeder to GSMST.

“Neither GSMST nor the new middle school in Duluth are 'magnet' schools. GSMST will have special school status under SWSS/IE2. The new middle school will be a zone school and serve students within the Duluth Cluster. The attendance zone for that school will be determined through the current redistricting process," said Roach in an email.

One parent expressed concern the GSMST algebra requirement will hurt minority and low-income students who have historically been underrepresented in advanced math in middle school. (You can see federal data on racial disparities in middle school Algebra 1 enrollment.)

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About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.