Department of Education Responds to Concerns over Virginia Mathematics Pathways Initiative


After backlash from Republican politicians and activists over the Virginia Mathematics Pathways Initiative (VMPI), Virginia Department of Education officials held a Zoom meeting to respond.

On Monday, VDOE Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said, “We’ve heard a lot of information shared in some sources with some information that’s just not accurate.”

He said the VMPI was the VDOE’s mathematics team working to find out what people want in the next standards revision. Since the regularly-scheduled standards revision won’t happen until 2023, Lane said he considered the initiative work-shopping of ideas with no specific proposals currently. He said final implementation won’t happen until the 2025-2026 school year, with numerous public comment periods “so that the citizens’ of Virginia’s voices are in the mathematics standards.”

Last week, Loudoun County School Board member Ian Serotkin warned about the plan on Facebook, first reported by Fox News. Serotkin wrote that there are some good things in the initiative, like enabling students to take calculus in high school. But Serotkin also warned that the VMPI would end math acceleration before 11th grade. Loudoun County schools activist Ian Prior told Fox News that the VMPI is a way to “stifle advancement for gifted students and set them back as they prepare for advanced mathematics in college. This is critical race theory in action and parents should be outraged.”

The story gained traction with conservative news media and got international attention from Russia Today.

“I’ve seen articles that say, ‘Virginia is doing x, y, or z. Virginia isn’t doing anything right now in this space because we are literally just having discussions with the community about what they want in the next set of revisions,” Lane said. “None of the proposals are endorsed by the [Board of Education.]”

Lane said the discussion was focused on outcomes for students as a result of mathematics learning. He said one idea in the VMPI is a new focus on data analytics.

“So, you’ll see heavier emphasis on data sciences and data analytics during the high school years,” Lane said. “What we know is that the jobs of the future have a much heavier emphasis on data analysis.”

“If a student needs an accelerated pathway, they will absolutely be able to do that,” Lane said. “At the end of the day, I just wanted to make it clear the the [VMPI] is our every-seven-years standards revision that is not due for two years. So we’re just looking for ideas and feedback from our community. The VMPI will not and is not an elimination of accelerated courses, and is not an elimination of the calculus pathway in Virginia.”

“We’re not reducing the rigor in our curriculum, and in a lot of ways by building in this focus on data analytics and this sequence of math we’re increasing more rigorous opportunities for students.  We’re not eliminating any pathways to calculus, and we’re increasing additional pathways that students may want to choose,” Lane said.

But Republicans aren’t buying it. The Chesterfield County Republican Committee responded to The Virginia Mercury’s coverage of Lane’s comments:

Virginia Mercury is working hard to assist State Superintendent James Lane in ‘walking back’ his and the Virginia Department of Education’s efforts to eliminate advanced math prior to 11th grade and advanced diplomas in Virginia, holding our kids back from their learning potential and achievement under the banner of the collectivist buzzword ‘equity,’ the committee said in a Facebook statement.

On Monday, Delegate Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) issued a campaign statement stating that if elected, he would replace the entire Board of Education, preserve advanced math and science courses, and prohibit teaching critical race theory.

“Two years ago Virginia had some of the best public schools in the country. Accreditation rates were rising, our students were outperforming the national average on college entrance exams, and more students than ever were getting two and four-year degrees,” Cox said. “In spite of all this success, Virginia Democrats have set out to fundamentally remake our education system – injecting far left ideas like critical race theory, lowering academic standards, and now talking about ending advanced math courses just because they supposedly aren’t fair. This is simply insane.”

On Tuesday, his campaign responded to Lane’s comments. “[VDOE] officials are clearly backtracking. This does not change their initial intent: forcing mediocrity in the name of equity,” Cox Communications Director Elizabeth Gregory said.

On Sunday, gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin said in a press release he’d fire Lane if elected. On Tuesday, Youngkin said, “The Northam Administration clearly got caught and now they’re trying to cover it up. It’s very clear from the VDOE website and webinars that eliminating accelerated math classes prior to 11th grade is exactly what they were moving to do. It’s ridiculous.”

Youngkin added, “Until they make it absolutely clear that this will never happen, we’re going to keep holding their feet to the fire. There’s no doubt on my mind that liberal Terry McAuliffe would try to sneak this through, but I will never allow it. Instead of holding children back, we will empower students to achieve goals they didn’t even think were possible.”

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network.  Email tips to [email protected].











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