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Teachers, activists push school districts to drop calculus in the name of equity


Daily Caller News Foundation

Teachers and activists are pushing for high schools to drop their calculus courses to increase equity as many minority and low-income students don’t have access to the class, according to The 74, a nonprofit news organization covering education.

In the 2017-2018 school year, 76% of schools with “low student of color enrollment” offered calculus while 52% of schools with a high proportion of students of color offered the advanced math course, according to a Learning Policy Institute report. The course, teachers and activists argued, is disproportionately offered to students not of an underrepresented group, giving other students an advantage in the college admissions process, according to The 74.

“I am rightfully worried that the disproportionate focus on calculus is unfairly excluding students, particularly students who come from backgrounds that have been historically excluded — and are still being excluded — from STEM majors and the well-paying careers that can follow,” Sarah Spence Adams, professor of mathematics at Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Massachusetts, told the outlet.

Of high schools with many students coming from low-income households, 45% offer calculus, The 74 reported. Approximately 87% of high schools with a smaller proportion of students from low-income households offer the accelerated math course.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Pathways Program,” which focuses on improving career outcomes for black and Latino students, donated $1.1 billion over the next four years to increase the number of teachers and improve other mathematics courses to make calculus not the default class for students, The 74 reported.

“The focus on calculus in high school is a vicious cycle that needs to stop: It’s inequitable and will not lead to a stronger body of college applicants or a stronger society,” Melodie Baker, national policy director at Just Equations, a group that focuses on increasing equity in math, told the outlet. “It will lead to more of the same and delay 21-century advancement that relies on data and technology.”

Advanced math and Algebra II courses are also offered less within school districts with a “high enrollment of students from low-income families,” according to The 74.

“Having calculus as the gatekeeper for competitive college admissions doesn’t make sense because of all of the inequities … and because it is taking one form of math and giving it a special place,” Bill Tucker, senior advisor of the Pathways Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, told the outlet. “We want to have that equal opportunity… but we don’t want to make it so every student has to go to that door.”

Across the country school districts are axing their honors classes in an effort to increase equity; Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District in California, Patrick Henry High School in California and Culver City High School in California stopped offering accelerated courses because they were not enrolling enough black and Latino students. The school districts argued that eliminating the courses “increased access and provided excellent educational experiences for all.”

“We really feel equity means offering opportunities to students of diverse backgrounds, not taking away opportunities for advanced education and study,” Joanna Schaenman, a Culver City parent, told the Wall Street Journal.

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Republished with permission from Daily Caller News Foundation

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