February 2019

CSU Bid to Raise Math Requirement May Limit Student Access

San Francisco Chronicle
CSU Bid to Raise Math Requirement May Limit Student Access

In an an op-ed published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Just Equations founder Pamela Burdman sheds light on a proposal from CSU faculty to increase math requirements for incoming students. Because that proposal risks widening inequities for students who have less access to advanced math courses in high school, she highlights the importance of developing data systems to analyze the effects of such policies.

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE—California universities reserve freshman slots for just the top one-third of high school graduates, so how that third is defined influences the life chances of tens of thousands of students each year. A proposal from California State University faculty to change that definition by raising math requirements merits more serious scrutiny than it has received.

While intended to better prepare students for college, additional requirements could limit access for students who happen to attend high schools that offer less math. Plus, evidence linking math achievement to future success is surprisingly thin. Given existing differences in access to advanced math courses, the proposal risks widening inequities in college access for low-income students and students of color, who often attend such schools.

Disturbingly, our education systems aren’t able to develop the evidence or calculate the risks needed to assess the proposal: To understand students’ pathways from high school to college California needs to raise the quantitative bar by building an inter-segmental data system, as Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed.

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