New law aims to keep kids in the right math class

Photo via Flickr/Aaron Escobar
Photo via Flickr/Aaron Escobar

Gov. Jerry Brown has until this Sunday to decide whether to sign hundreds of bills into law or veto them. One of the bills he signed Monday deals with something called math misplacement. Math misplacement is a term that’s used when a 9th grader is held back from advancing to the next level of math, even when they’ve scored well on the tests.

The new bill puts into place a mandate for clear objectives and transparent placement processes for all students, according to Gina Dalma, Special Advisor to the CEO for Public Policy at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which has been trying to focus attention on the issue.

African American and Latino students, and economically disadvantaged kids were most affected by math misplacement, explained Dalma and the impact is massive.

“It is huge. Not only because of what they begin to think of themselves,” she said. It’s not just that it affects kids’ confidence, by telling them they aren’t good enough, but “it’s also logistically much harder for them to be competitive for college.”

Dalma said they’ve called math misplacement a “leak in the STEM pipeline.” She continued, “We’re taking our most talented students in diverse populations out of the running. Not only are they not going to be able to have the required coursework to be competitive for college, they’re also less likely to pursue a STEM career if you’re telling them at a very sensitive time in their life that they’re not good enough.”

So what does the bill change?

“It does several things, it requires a mandate that all school districts that serve entering 9th graders have an objective and transparent placement policy for all their students. So it eliminates a potential for bias in math placement decisions, it increases the transparency of methods used to make student placement decisions, it really ensures fairness throughout the math placement process.”

Listen to the full interview below: