Your Views: Stamping out the math wars

Your Views: Stamping out the math wars
A flex classroom on the fourth floor is designed to serve multiple purposes for the STEM-focused school (Photo Credit: Missy Schrott)

To the editor:

In response to the May 6 letter to the editor, “STEMing access to math,” I encourage students and parents concerned about the Virginia Math Pathways Initiative to review the relevant research on de-tracking mathematics curriculums. De-tracking is the elimination of separate classes for high-, average- and low-achievers in favor of heterogeneous classes where everyone is held to the same performance standards. Multiple studies from the University of California, Columbia and the University of North Carolina have shown de-tracking leads to improved equity, higher educational outcomes and minimal negative outcomes for “high performing students.”

Consider Evanston Township High School in Evanston, Illinois. Evanston implemented de-tracking in 2010. The decision was met with controversy at the time, but has resulted in measurable positive impacts. In 2015, the school posted its highest average ACT scores ever, 23.9 compared to the national average of 20, and saw increases in ACT performance across all demographics. Similar results have been recorded in school districts in San Francisco, California and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

I commend VDOE for hosting community information sessions, such as the one held Tuesday, and encourage them to hold many more as the new curriculum is being developed, reviewed and finalized. Any new approach to mathematics education must be evidence-based and developed in the open.

Parents should have ample opportunity to engage with state and local governments as these changes are made. Only then will we be able to provide better educational outcomes for all.

-Donald Polaski, Alexandria