Report Explores Strategies for Equitable Math Education

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A new report from Just Equations, a policy institute focused on equity in math education, analyzed math reforms at California colleges and universities and concludes institutions have made significant strides but must take additional steps to close equity gaps.

The report, released Thursday, points to recent policy changes related to remedial math in the state. A California law, passed in 2017, requires community colleges to use multiple measures to place students in remedial courses, with the aim to enable more students to take college-level math in their first year, among other changes. The California State University system also adopted math education reforms in 2017, getting rid of the system’s math placement test and stand-alone remedial courses.

The report draws on interviews with 27 administrators, faculty and staff members and 50 students at six institutions — Citrus College, Cuyamaca College, Los Medanos College, Pasadena City College, Porterville College and San Diego State University — about the implementation of these policies and their equity implications and campuses’ efforts to improve student outcomes in math. Strategies included embracing corequisite models, where students take college-level math with additional academic support, and offering math pathways aligned with students’ majors.

Based on these conversations, the report makes a number of recommendations, which include tracking math education outcomes for students from underrepresented backgrounds, using student feedback to redesign math pathways and frequently communicating with students about math course offerings, requirements and placement practices. It also suggests making academic counseling widely available and encouraging or requiring students to check in regularly with a counselor.

“Postsecondary institutions in California are paving the way for students to make the best math enrollment decisions and must continue to do the critical work to eliminate education equity gaps,” Pamela Burdman, executive director of Just Equations, said in a press release.

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