Posts published on August 14, 2011
Achieve of Washington, DC is an organization of political and business leaders that provides policies and tools fo k-12 standards that provide all students with college prpeparation.
Math and Civil Rights
Is access to high-level mathematics a civil rights issue?
Numerous studies demonstrate that successful completion of rigorous mathematics, such as Algebra II, in high school is an important gateway to success in college and the work place. Yet data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights in June shows that nearly half a million students—at least—attend public schools that don’t even offer Algebra II or equivalent courses.
If a student doesn’t take high-level mathematics, it can dramatically limit his or her chance of succeeding in the work place of today—and the future.
In July, another federal report from the U.S. Department of Commerce demonstrated that over the past ten years, jobs in the area of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics—or STEM—grew at a rate three times faster than non-STEM jobs. That trend is expected to continue over the next 10 years, and likely beyond given the role innovation plays in U.S. economic growth. And STEM jobs are not only growing faster, but they pay better, too. PayScale, a company that tracks compensation data, recently released its 2011-2012 College Salary Report, which tracks the college majors that lead to the best salaries. Every degree in the top 10 was in a STEM area from computer science to aerospace engineering.
Simply put, students who do not have access to high-level mathematics are going to be less prepared for STEM work in college and careers, meaning their prospects for a bright financial future are also limited. This makes educational access a major civil rights issue.
The good news is that something is being done about it. Nearly every state has made a firm commitment to college and career readiness for all students.
There are now 46 states that have committed to implementing the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and mathematics. The standards are aligned to the expectations of higher education and the work place—and that includes advanced mathematics.
Also, nearly every state in the nation is involved in building new assessments that are aligned to the Common Core and will make sure all students are getting access to the knowledge and skills they need to be successful. (Achieve is the project manager for one of those consortia—the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC. The other is the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium).
Momentum continues to build for the college- and career-ready agenda and, as a nation, we are making major strides toward providing all students access to a meaningful education. But as the U.S. Department of Education Civil Rights data make very clear, there is much work left to be done.
For more, see Achieve’s Math Works, a set of materials that make the case that all students need high-level mathematics for success, including success on-the-job in high-growth careers.