California’s ‘Equity’ Math Rejects Existence of Naturally Gifted Students: ‘All Children Capable at Highest Levels’

FRANCE : PRIMARY SCHOOL CLASS Reportage in Les Hélices Vertes primary school in Cerny, France. Year 5, year 6 multi-level class. AMELIE-BENOIST / BSIP
AMELIE-BENOIST / BSIP/AFP

California’s proposed “equity”-focused K-12 mathematics framework aims to underscore the message that there are no students who are intellectually gifted in the subject area, and that providing tracks for higher-level math students is discriminatory.

“All students are capable of making these contributions and achieving these abilities at the highest levels,” the introductory chapter of the framework draft from January states, addressing the “problem” that “many competitive colleges and universities … hold calculus as an unstated requirement.”

According to the framework, when school districts place students who show high ability in math in advanced classes, or in the “mathematics pathway system,” they act in opposition to what the document states is “evidence that shows all fifth graders are capable of eventually learning calculus, or other high-level courses, when provided appropriate messaging, teaching, and support (sic).”

“The system of providing only some students pathways to calculus, or statistics, data science or other high-level courses has resulted in the denial of opportunities too [sic] many potential STEAM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics] students—especially Latinx and African American students,” the framework maintains.

“All students deserve powerful mathematics,” it asserts. “We reject ideas of natural gifts and talents.”

“The belief that ‘I treat everyone the same’ is insufficient,” the draft continues. “Active efforts in mathematics teaching are required in order to counter the cultural forces that have led to and continue to perpetuate current inequities.”

The proposed framework states one of its primary goals is “to replace ideas of innate mathematics ‘talent’ and ‘giftedness’ with the recognition that every student is on a growth pathway.”

“There is no cutoff determining when one child is ‘gifted’ and another is not,” the draft says.

In Chapter 7 of the draft, the framework even dismisses the notion that Calculus should be taught at all during the high school years:

The inequity of mathematics tracking in California can be undone through a coordinated approach in grades 6–12 (with attention to informal tracking beginning in elementary school as well). Unfortunately, many students, parents, and teachers encourage acceleration beginning in grade eight (or sooner) because of mistaken beliefs that Calculus is an important high school goal, and as such, Algebra I must be taken in eighth grade to ensure the student remains on track to reach a calculus class in grade twelve.

The framework again underscores that some of the traditional means of meeting the academic needs of “gifted and talented” students, regardless of their cultural, racial, or ethnic background, will no longer be considered:

In summary, middle-school students are best served in heterogeneous classes that maintain appropriate challenge and engagement, and build depth of understanding, through meaningful mathematical tasks—as described throughout this framework. Skipping grades, or attempting to move grade six content to grade five or below, is not consistent with the CA CCSSM, and undermines the carefully-sequenced progression of topics they provide through the grade levels.

Chapter 2 of the framework is solely focused on using mathematics as a tool for achieving “social justice”:

Mathematics educators have an imperative to impart upon their students the argument that mathematics is a tool that can be used to both understand and change the world. Mathematics has traditionally been viewed as a neutral discipline, which has occluded possibilities for students to develop more personal and powerful relationships to mathematics and has led too many students to believe mathematics is not for them. A different perspective enables teachers to not only help their students see themselves inside mathematics but develop knowledge and understanding that allows them to use mathematics toward betterment in their worlds. Teachers can take a justice-oriented perspective at any grade level, K–12, helping students feel belonging (Brady et al, 2020), and empowering them with tools to address important issues in their lives and communities.

“To encourage truly equitable and engaging mathematics classrooms we need to broaden perceptions of mathematics beyond methods and answers so that students come to view mathematics as a connected, multi-dimensional subject that is about sense making and reasoning, to which they can contribute and belong,” the draft urges.

As Breitbart News reported in April, the California education department’s teachers’ workbook titled “A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction: Dismantling Racism in Mathematics Instruction,” asserts, “White supremacy culture infiltrates math classrooms in everyday teacher actions.”

“Coupled with the beliefs that underlie these actions, they perpetuate educational harm on Black, Latinx, and multilingual students, denying them full access to the world of mathematics,” the document adds.

The workbook states evidence of “white supremacy culture” in the classroom includes:

  • The focus is on getting the “right” answer.
  • Independent practice is valued over teamwork or collaboration.
  • “Real-world math” is valued over math in the real world.
  • Students are tracked (into courses/pathways and within the classroom).
  • Participation structures reinforce dominant ways of being.

Additionally, the workbook asserts the means by which teachers assess student learning in math is based on white supremacy culture, as demonstrated by:

  • Students are required to “show their work.”
  • Grading practices are focused on lack of knowledge.
  • Language acquisition is equated with mathematical proficiency.

“The concept of mathematics being purely objective is unequivocally false, and teaching it is even much less so,” the workbook adds. “Upholding the idea that there are always right and wrong answers perpetuate objectivity [sic] as well as fear of open conflict [sic].”

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