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Hundreds of highly distinguished science and math professors have signed an open letter expressing “urgent concern” over California’s efforts to reform mathematics education in the name of social justice.
The letter, signed by 597 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals, said the California Department of Education’s (CDE) proposed new mathematics framework will aim to reduce achievement gaps by limiting the availability of advanced mathematical courses to middle schoolers and beginning high schoolers, making it more challenging for students to succeed in STEM at college.
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The signatories also condemned the CDE’s “deeply worrisome trend” of favoring “trendy but shallow” courses like data science over “essential” mathematical tools like calculus and algebra.
The framework, the signatories argued, would have the opposite effect of what it intends by leading to a “de facto privatization of advanced mathematics K-12 education” and disproportionately harming lower-income students.
“Subjecting the children of our largest state to such an experiment is the height of irresponsibility,” the letter said.
The signatories demanded that all students, regardless of background, have access to a math curriculum “with precision and rigor,” and that students be offered multiple pathways to explore mathematics at varying grade levels of middle and high school.
“Far from being deliberately held back, all students should have the opportunity to be nurtured and challenged to fulfill their potential,” the letter said. “This is not only for their own benefit but also for society and the nation’s economic competitiveness.”
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The open letter echoes similar concerns in an open letter over the summer, signed by more than 1,100 Californians working in science and technology, who argued it is “immoral and foolish to intentionally hold back the intellectual growth of students by forcing them to waste time in unchallenging classes.”
The backlash forced the California Board of Education to postpone implementing the framework until May 2022, when it will review the curriculum again before it’s finalized.