Virginia has scrapped a proposed education initiative many critics said would have limited student access to advanced math courses in the name of improving “equity.”
The proposal, known as Virginia Mathematics Pathways Initiative (VMPI), is no longer featured on the website of the Virginia Department of Education in the wake of the new Gov. Glenn Youngkin administration’s effort to “restore academic excellence” in public schools.
“This is just another instance of Governor Youngkin delivering on his promises to Virginia’s students and parents,” Youngkin’s office said in a statement. “The governor pledged to remove the initiative, which would move away from advanced math courses, to restore academic excellence in Virginia and ensure our curriculum is preparing students to excel.”
Under the VMPI, the K-12 math education would be redesigned in a way that Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2 no longer exist as individual courses, but rather that their contents are integrated into “blended courses” for students in grades 8–10. Once students enter the 11th grade, they would be able to take advanced courses such as calculus.
The department under the previous Ralph Northam administration cited a concept known as “heterogeneous learning,” which means students of different skill levels being kept in the same classroom to learn at their individual paces. The idea was that it makes students who are supposedly privileged by the current system give up some of their privileges to achieve more equitable schooling.
The VMPI almost immediately became a center of controversy when it was released last spring, especially after Loudoun County School Board member Ian Serotkin expressed concerns about the potential changes to K-12 math curricula, saying that his first reaction was that “it seemed absolutely bananas,” and that “it sets a soft cap on the number of higher math courses students are going to be able to take.”
“As currently planned, this initiative will eliminate ALL math acceleration prior to 11th grade,” Serotkin wrote in a Facebook post. “That is not an exaggeration, nor does there appear to be any discretion in how local districts implement this. All 6th graders will take Foundational Concepts 6. All 7th graders will take Foundational Concepts 7. All 10th graders will take Essential Concepts 10. Only in 11th and 12th grade is there any opportunity for choice in higher math courses.”
That being said, Serotkin did agree that there were “some noble goals with this initiative,” such as that it would provide a pathway for every student to be able to take calculus or a higher math by the end of high school, if they choose.
In California, education officials are considering a similar equity-focused K-12 math overhaul. The latest version of California’s Mathematics Framework takes a step further to formally recommend that all students stay together in math class through 10th grade and that they are not allowed to accelerate until 11th grade.
“The lack of tracking or acceleration will allow all students to regard mathematics as a subject they can study and in which they belong,” the proposal reads.