Watchdog group urges parents, others to reject plan to de-mathematize math in the name of ‘equity’

Californians for Equal Rights Foundation (CFER), a policy watchdog group, is urging parents and concerned citizens to express opposition to a newly published plan by the California Department of Education (CDE) that it says “dangerously de-mathematizes math” in the name of “equity, racial justice and so-called ‘big ideas.’”

The CDE last month posted an updated version of its “Second Field Review Draft of the 2022 California Mathematics Framework.”

The first draft made national news because it appeared to end advanced courses because Asian students outperformed non-Asian students. One section of the draft, which has since been replaced, stated, “In California in the years 2004–2014, 32 percent of Asian American students were in gifted programs compared with 8 percent of White students, 4 percent of Black students, and 3 percent of Latinx students.”

The CDE, the Instructional Quality Commission (IQC), and State Board of Education (SBE) began the revision process for its newly issued guidance, “Mathematics Framework for California Public Schools: Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve.” It’s “designed to help educators align classroom teaching with California’s rigorous math learning standards.”

The CDE says the guidance includes “input from California parents, educators, students, and others who commented during the first 60-day field review period in early 2021 and during the IQC’s May 2021 meeting.”

However, CFER “doesn’t believe much of the parents’ or community’s input was included or even considered in the revisions,” its executive director, Wenyuan Wu, Ph.D., told The Center Square. She says many parents and community members demanded that CDE and IQC “come up with a balanced, rigorous, and apolitical framework.” However, after reviewing the new version, Wu says, “the ideology of DEI or racial equity is still prevalent.”

The framework includes 14 draft chapters, of which five specifically address equity. It aims “to respond to the structural barriers put in the place of mathematics success: equity influences all aspects of this document,” according to a FAQ the CDE published.

The overarching goal of K-12 math teaching will be to “promote racial justice and create space for students with a wide range of social identities to feel a sense of belonging,” according to Chapter 2 in the proposed framework.

One equity measure includes an anti-merit component because “[s]tudents of color, recent immigrants, and those from low-income families have been routinely ‘tracked down’ into less challenging coursework that is also generally less well-taught,” according to Chapter 9 in the framework.

“This kind of thinking is wrong and bigoted because it’s based upon crude racial stereotypes and reduces human agency to ideological, race-based abstractions,” Wu said. “Not all Asians are good at math. And not all so-called underrepresented minorities are categorically worse off when it comes to STEM performance.

“It is both bizarre and insulting to anchor any goal of a scientific subject matter, in this case, math, in a race-based dogma,” she added. “2+2 is not racist. Neither is it racist to state apparent empirical observations that achievement gaps are real. It’s not racist to say that the public education system needs structural reforms to re-focus on basic learning and improve a culture of excellence. It is counterproductive to try to masquerade the problems and call them structural inequities that require equity or social-justice math.”

The CDE’s “pro-person of color” position “is really a smoke screen behind the real intention to racially balance with high-performing Asian students being the biggest scapegoat. Simply put, the biggest achievement gap in math proficiency is not between white students and non-white ones,” Wu said.

In 2019, according to race/ethnicity, black students were 20.55% proficient in Math, Latinos were 28.05% proficient, American Indians 26.58%, whites 54.23% and Asians 74.37%, according to CDE data.

A Stanford study also found that among economically disadvantaged students in the 8th grade, 57% of Asians, 31% of whites, 21% of Latinos, 17% of American Indians, and 12% of Blacks were proficient in Math.

Rather than prioritize improving California students’ low math scores and failing grades, the CDE is focusing on a new form of math: division by race/ethnicity.

While California schools are facing “a crisis of low performance,” CDE has “chosen to disregard broad-based demands for quality and excellence by insisting on pushing a new math framework wrapped in equity,” CFER president Frank Xu said. “The essence of such an anti-merit statewide framework is to lower standards in the name of equal outcomes, which could have disastrous ramifications on the quality of public education.”

According to The Nation’s Report Card, California public schools rank 9th-worst for proficiency in math. In 2019, 75% of its 4th grade public school students were at or above basic math achievement levels for their grade. Only 34% were at or above proficient in math for their grade level.

Despite California students’ ranking, the state spent roughly $21,000 per student in the 2019-20 school year, according to a California Policy Center estimate. Additional state and federal funding through Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “comeback plan” last year increased this estimate to $25,000 per pupil. While California spends the most on public school students, they perform among the worst in the country.

CFER issued an action alert about the framework, which it argues, “projects an erroneous bigotry of low expectations on these student groups. Centered around investigating ‘big ideas’ rather than following detailed content standards, the draft purports to reimagine math with a misguided goal to ‘respond to the structural barriers put in the place of mathematics success.’”

The framework “is playing with fire by conducting an ideological experiment on our next generation,” Xu said. “The world is rapidly changing. America needs competent engineers, scientists, mathematicians and other STEM talents, more than ever. We simply can’t allow public education to keep spinning downwards.”

The CDE maintains, “California is committed to achieving excellence in math teaching and learning through curriculum and instructional approaches grounded in research and reflective of best practices across the globe.” The guidance for math addresses learning “for all students at all levels of math – including calculus,” it said, and “ensures students have a wide variety of options including pursuing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) in college and career.”

The second 60-day public comment period began March 14 and goes through May 16, 2022. The framework is scheduled to go before the SBE to be considered for adoption in July.

This article was originally posted on Watchdog group urges parents, others to reject plan to de-mathematize math in the name of ‘equity’

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