The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) has decided to “eliminate all accelerated math options prior to 11th grade” in an effort to combat what they claim is “inequity” in mathematics. This is the latest in a series of proposals surrounding what Virginia sees as racial inequity in school.
According to Loudoun County school board member Ian Serotkin, the change would eliminate classes such as Algebra I and II and Geometry. He said, “[A]s currently planned, this initiative will eliminate ALL math acceleration prior to 11th grade. 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.”
Serotkin’s charts indicated that the “Virginia Mathematics Pathway Initiative” would gradually begin to be implemented in 2022. VDOE spokesperson Charles Pyle, however, indicated that the initiatives would be more fully implemented during the 2025-2026 school year, following the state Board of Education’s next revision of “mathematics standards of learning.”
VDOE’s website listed several goals of the new initiative, including to “[i]mprove equity in mathematics learning opportunities,” to “[e]mpower students to be active participants in a quantitative world,” and to “[i]dentify K-12 mathematics pathways that support future success.”
Addressing the elimination of courses such as Algebra and Geometry, committee member Ian Shenk claimed that the new proposed “concepts courses” would not eliminate “algebraic ideas” but would rather “interweave multiple strands of mathematics throughout the courses,” as reported by Fox News.
Charles Pyle did not provide a direct answer to concerns about the new program holding back advanced students or preventing students from improving their skills at the rate suited their individual abilities. His reply to a request for more details on how to accommodate different skill levels was only, “Differentiated instruction is designed to provide the appropriate levels of challenge and academic rigor for each student.”
Pyle contrasted what he called the “acceleration” focused on in the current program with the “deeper learning” he claimed would result from the proposed changes multiple times. The aim is “to support increased differentiated learning opportunities within a heterogeneous learning environment, that will promote greater access to advanced mathematical learning for all students before high school graduation,” Pyle told Fox News. He touted the “inclusive learning environment” which he said the new initiative will provide, “that engages and challenges students of varied levels of understanding and different interests.” Pyle said the initiative was a move away from “an emphasis on computation and routine problem practice.”
Serotkin, indicating how more “equity” is to be achieved by the proposed changes, said that it would provide “a pathway for every student to be able to take calculus or higher math by the end of high school.”
Jennifer Allard, high school mathematics specialist for Fairfax County Public Schools, said, “The issue of inequity in mathematics education makes it essential for us to initiate serious discussions. . .to catalyze change in school mathematics.”
Many parents are expressing serious concern that the initiative would enforce “equity” at the cost of holding back gifted students, however. Ian Prior, a parent in Loudoun County and a former Trump administration official, said he feared the proposed program would “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.”
Another parent, speaking anonymously, worried, “These changes will have a profound impact on students who excel in STEM related curriculum, weakening our country’s ability to compete in a global marketplace for years to come.”
Virginia is also considering the elimination of advanced high school diplomas to increase “equity,” including racial “equity.”