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All Students Left Behind? Virginia proposal could STOP gifted students from progress in math

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Students may face cap on math courses in high school.

The Virginia Department of Education is moving to eliminate accelerated math courses before grade 11, "to improve equity in mathematics learning opportunities." However, many recognize the proposal comes with a drawback. 

Highlights

By Marshall Connolly (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
4/27/2021 (1 month ago)

Published in College & University

Keywords: Virginia, math, students, courses, cap

LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - As part of a revamp, the Virginia Mathematics Pathway Initiative, eliminates all accelerated math courses before 11th grade. In plain English, this means all students, regardless of talent, will take the same math courses until grade 11, when they will finally be permitted to take advanced courses. 

Specifically, this means no matter how gifted a student may be in math, they will be kept back with their peers until grade 11, when they will finally be allowed to take higher math courses. 

Presently, many schools allow students to place into higher courses, including geometry, trigonometry, and calculus. 

The aim of the plan is to improve equity, ensuring all students have the same schooling, regardless. This matters in a world where some students enjoy systematic advantages over others, such as easier access to head-start programs as toddlers or preschoolers. Just knowing how to read before first grade is a tremendous advantage. Having advanced math skills as a child also translates into more advantages later. 

However, by limiting individual achievement prior to grade 11, students will be hamstrung, only allowed to learn advanced mathematics when they are older. While nothing prevents students from hiring a tutor or taking courses online, they may have difficulty accessing them or paying for them. 

The long-term result is likely to be disasters for individual achievers, and it is unlikely to make things better for students who are struggling in math. 

A better proposal would be to eliminate grade levels altogether and the unhealthy competition that goes with them. Instead, students should remain at whatever academic level they are at, per subject, until they master it and promote to the next. Otherwise, students fall increasingly behind as they promote without the prerequisite knowledge they need for success. The stigma of needing more time or extra help ought to be removed, but the Virginia plan does not do that. 

Holding students back from their potential is as bad as promoting students too soon. However, as many people recognize, education in America isn't about the welfare of the students, but about politics and indoctrination. 

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