Mathematicians and Scientists Raise Alarm About California Mathematics Framework

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An open letter signed, as of December 6, by 746 professionals in the areas of math and science is raising alarm over the newly adopted California Mathematics Framework (CMF). According to the letter, in an effort to “reduce achievement gaps” among students in math, California has adopted the strategy of “limiting the availability of advanced mathematical courses to middle schoolers and beginning high schoolers.” In other words, because some students don’t do as well in math as others, California is going to deny the opportunity for students who are successful in math to take advanced courses. This is supposed to “reduce achievement gaps.” What it will do is frustrate math-talented students forced to take classes that fail to challenge them, while doing nothing to lift up those students who aren’t as proficient in math. Instead of creating opportunities for those who aren’t as proficient in math, they’re going to take away opportunities for those who are. This is how California hopes to accomplish a reduction in “achievement gaps” — making sure no one achieves, rather than making sure everyone does at a level at which they are capable.

The signatories to the letter point out the obvious: such a strategy will fail to prepare students who excel in math for college-level courses. More students will have to take lower-level math courses in college to prepare for the upper-level courses, when they could have taken those courses in high school instead of wasting precious time and money on them in college. The CMF plan will also put public school students in California at a disadvantage against their peers in private schools, as well as international students, many of whom will begin their college careers already prepared for the upper-level college courses because they took advanced courses in high school. Wealthier families of public school students who recognize the absurdity of the CMF plan will transfer their children to private schools, which means those who are most harmed by CMF will be those from poorer families.

Somehow, those in leadership in so many of our public institutions have become hostile to the notion that people are better at different things. Some people are good at math and science. Some are good at art and theatre. Others are good at sports. There are those well-suited for careers caring for others, and those for careers in business working with numbers rather than people. Yet, our leaders seem to think that different capabilities are inherently rooted in discriminatory practices, and their strategy for leveling the playing field is to deny some students opportunities that ought to be available to them, rather than create opportunities for those who come from racial, ethnic or gender groups historically denied those opportunities. In other words, make everyone equally miserable. Instead of finding creative ways to move everyone forward, they choose to hold back the most talented.

There’s no question that discrimination has held back many who could have succeeded in fields but were never given the chance because of historic discrimination. There are also those who are denied opportunities because their families lack the resources to give them every chance to succeed. When I was young, I was given the opportunity to take art classes because I could draw well. My family couldn’t afford it. That was that. Today, perhaps there would be community resources or scholarships available to a kid like me whose family couldn’t provide for them. Maybe not. Either way, it meant going in this direction rather than that. Eventually, I became a nurse and not a graphic artist or architect. What it didn’t mean is that my life was over, and all other doors were closed to me. There were different doors. It also didn’t mean that those kids were denied opportunities whose families had the resources to pay for them.

In this case, however, we’re not even talking about students being denied upper-level math classes because their parents can’t afford them. We’re talking about public schools, institutions supported by tax money, choosing to deny students proficient in math the opportunity to take upper-level math classes because other students don’t fare as well in math. All in the name of equity.

This is madness. There is no good that can come from this. No one will benefit, certainly not those students who are not as proficient in math as others. There are no plans in place to help them become more proficient. The only plans are to hold back those who are already proficient and could become more so given the chance to take upper-level courses in high school. So, needless to say, it will not help these students. Ultimately, it will also place a greater burden on colleges, who will be required to offer more lower-level math courses in order to accommodate those students coming in who couldn’t prepare in high school for the upper-level classes in college. That means more cost. It will also hurt the country in its effort to compete with other countries whose curricula are not determined by bizarre and incoherent social justice equity goals, especially China.

Our public schools have suffered for decades with a poor reputation for preparing students adequately, either academically or socially, for life after twelve years of schooling. There’s a lot of evidence justifying that poor reputation. Now, it seems, our schools are equally intent on keeping the most talented held back out of some warped idea of equity: the idea that everyone needs to be equal at the lowest level possible. How did we get to this point? Why are we willingly denying our children every opportunity possible?

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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