California's newly proposed math framework seeks equity as part of the equation

Kristen Sze Image
Tuesday, May 25, 2021
A closer look at CA's newly proposed framework for teaching math
A new K-12 math curriculum is being drafted to be voted on by the State Board of Education in November.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- You might have seen recent headlines on California's proposed new math framework for public schools.

The revamped grades K-12 math curriculum is still in draft form and won't be voted on by the State Board of Education until November, but it has already become a flash point in the political battle over equity in education.

A recent headline in the Wall Street Journal declares "California Leftists Try to Cancel Math Class."

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At the heart of the issue, is whether schools should stop "tracking" students in math beginning in middle school, directing some to accelerated classes while most remain in "regular" classes. Currently, those in accelerated classes learn algebra in 8th grade, while those in "regular" have to wait until 9th grade.

Under the current path, students who don't start algebra in 8th grade generally don't reach calculus by 12th grade, considered the gold standard of higher level math, and something that colleges look for in applicants.

The new plan calls for most students to stay together in math through 10th grade, with differentiation happening within the heterogenous class, taught by teachers trained to meet students at their level.

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The plan also calls for more pathways in higher level math, not just calculus, but also statistics and data science, subjects that are seen as more practical for many careers.

Supporters say this approach will promote a deeper understanding of concepts for all, while removing "considerable inequities in mathematics education," and ensuring that underrepresented minorities and girls are not cut off early on from reaching higher level math.

But critics say the plan sacrifices the needs of advanced students, and will take the state backwards, at a time when the majority of K-12 students in the state are not meeting grade-level benchmarks.

At a recent remote hearing, parents of gifted students expressed skepticism that all teachers would be able to successfully challenge all the kids in their class working at different levels.

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Some related their experience of seeing their advanced learners in non-accelerated classes being given meaningless work to pass the time.

Given the importance of this debate, which will affect more than 6 million California children, ABC7 News anchor Kristen Sze recently interviewed one of the authors of the new framework, Stanford Professor Dr. Jo Boaler.

You can watch the full interview in the media player at the top of this post.