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California college chancellor says algebra is ‘civil rights issue’

The Daily Caller reported that a chancellor from a Californian community college wants to abolish an algebra requirement because it is a “civil rights issue”.

Published: July 21, 2017, 9:20 am

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    In a Wednesday interview, Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of California Community Colleges, told US National Public Radio (NPR) that algebra was too difficult.

    He suggested that the disproportionate rate at which it prevents non-white students from graduating from community colleges was a problem, as almost 50 percent of community college students do not complete their math requirement.

    “This is a civil rights issue, but this is also something that plagues all Americans — particularly low-income Americans,” Oakley explained. “If you think about all the underemployed or unemployed Americans in this country who cannot connect to a job in this economy — which is unforgiving of those students who don’t have a credential — the biggest barrier for them is this algebra requirement. It’s what has kept them from achieving a credential.”

    The NPR interviewer responded that Oakley was trying to improve the California community college graduation rate. Currently less than half of students from community colleges are able to pass or obtain an associate’s degree from the community college within six years. But Oakley denied the obvious and implied that white culture was to blame.

    “Since the 1950s, we decided that the only measure of a student’s ability to reason or to do some sort of quantitative measure is algebra,” the chancellor said, rejecting the notion that math was helpful in setting a cognitive standard. “What we’re saying is we want as rigorous a course as possible to determine a student’s ability to succeed, but it should be relevant to their course of study.”

    Other higher education institutions, such as the Carnegie Foundation and the University of Texas, were also considering to drop algebra, the chancellor added. He suggested that “statistics” could replace algebra as a new requirement.

    “[Statistics] is a skill that we should have all of our students have with them because this affects them in their daily life.”

    Only 12 percent of black fourth-grade boys are proficient in reading, compared with 38 percent of white boys, and only 12 percent of black eighth-grade boys are proficient in math, compared with 44 percent of white boys, the New York Times reported.

    “Poverty alone does not seem to explain the differences: poor white boys do just as well as African-American boys who do not live in poverty, measured by whether they qualify for subsidized school lunches.”

    State test scores in New Jersey showed that a huge achievement gap remains, with black and Hispanic children failing the exams in much higher numbers than whites and Asians. Low-income students also continue to fare poorly on the tests.

    The state has injected billions of dollars over the past 12 years into Trenton and other poor districts. That has included creating free, high-quality preschool for thousands of children in those communities in the hope that an early boost would close the achievement gap.

    The scores from 2011 “sort of throws that theory out the window,” state Board of Education president Arcelio Aponte said, suggesting that more money would not wipe out the gap.

    On the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 18 percent of African-American fourth-graders were proficient in reading and only 19 percent scored as proficient in math, according to an analysis by the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation revealed.

    The eighth-grade numbers were even worse, with only 16 percent of African-American students proficient in reading and 13 percent proficient in math.

    “There’s accumulating evidence that there are racial differences in what kids experience before the first day of kindergarten,” Ronald Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard, said.

    The racial achievement gap in US schools between black male students and white male students in reading and math is 120 points in mathematics and 99 points in writing.

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