Teachers, Activists Push School Districts to Drop Calculus in the Name of Equity

by Reagan Reese


Teachers and activists are pushing for high schools to drop their calculus courses to increase equity as many minority and low-income students don’t have access to the class, according to The 74, a nonprofit news organization covering education.

In the 2017-2018 school year, 76 percent of schools with “low student of color enrollment” offered calculus while 52 percent of schools with a high proportion of students of color offered the advanced math course, according to a Learning Policy Institute report. The course, teachers and activists argued, is disproportionately offered to students not of an underrepresented group, giving other students an advantage in the college admissions process, according to The 74.

“I am rightfully worried that the disproportionate focus on calculus is unfairly excluding students, particularly students who come from backgrounds that have been historically excluded — and are still being excluded — from STEM majors and the well-paying careers that can follow,” Sarah Spence Adams, professor of mathematics at Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Massachusetts, told the outlet.

Of high schools with many students coming from low-income households, 45 percent offer calculus, The 74 reported. Approximately 87 percent of high schools with a smaller proportion of students from low-income households offer the accelerated math course.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Pathways Program,” which focuses on improving career outcomes for black and Latino students, donated $1.1 billion over the next four years to increase the number of teachers and improve other mathematics courses to make calculus not the default class for students, The 74 reported.

“The focus on calculus in high school is a vicious cycle that needs to stop: It’s inequitable and will not lead to a stronger body of college applicants or a stronger society,” Melodie Baker, national policy director at Just Equations, a group that focuses on increasing equity in math, told the outlet. “It will lead to more of the same and delay 21-century advancement that relies on data and technology.”

Advanced math and Algebra II courses are also offered less within school districts with a “high enrollment of students from low-income families,” according to The 74.

“Having calculus as the gatekeeper for competitive college admissions doesn’t make sense because of all of the inequities … and because it is taking one form of math and giving it a special place,” Bill Tucker, senior advisor of the Pathways Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, told the outlet. “We want to have that equal opportunity… but we don’t want to make it so every student has to go to that door.”

Across the country school districts are axing their honors classes in an effort to increase equity; Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District in California, Patrick Henry High School in California and Culver City High School in California stopped offering accelerated courses because they were not enrolling enough black and Latino students. The school districts argued that eliminating the courses “increased access and provided excellent educational experiences for all.”

“We really feel equity means offering opportunities to students of diverse backgrounds, not taking away opportunities for advanced education and study,” Joanna Schaenman, a Culver City parent, told the Wall Street Journal.

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Reagan Reese is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “Calculus” by Monstera.



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3 Thoughts to “Teachers, Activists Push School Districts to Drop Calculus in the Name of Equity”

  1. Art

    Equity implies equal outcomes independent of prior preparation, aptitude for the subject matter, effort applied to study and learn the material, and in the end demonstrable grasp of the topic at hand. To attempt to force equal outcomes is as futile as trying to demand every snowflake falling from a cloud be identical.
    I didn’t take calculus in high school, I chose to take a year of analytic geometry. My first calculus class came at U of Illinois where I earned a BS in Engineering. My next degree was a MS in Engineering from U of Fla. My PhD was in theoretical nuclear physics from Fla State where I was able to study with a contemporary of Einstein and be recommended for a designer position at Los Alamos labs by another Noble laureate. Did “not taking calculus in high school hold me back?
    I worked long dedicated hours every day for years and know no better way to succeed.

  2. Steve Allen

    Let’s just give everyone a high school diploma for being born. The sooner America is divided up into the normal people and the wokey dokey people the better off we will be. You people on the left who support this kind of lunacy deserve the outcome. Those of us who still know right from wrong certainly do not deserve to suffer the consequences of liberal stupidity. I’m so thankful that I spent the majority of my life in the 20th century.

  3. David Longfellow

    The students are too stupid to understand calculus thanks to their teachers who are too stupid to teach it, not to mention that the teachers are too busy being woke to attend to their real jobs.