Universities across the country have long been aware of one very specific challenge relating to high school seniors; the gap between college-level math requirements, and the skill level achieved by a large percentage of incoming college freshmen. However, thanks to Governor Jerry Brown, help is on the way for the California State University system. In his projected 2016-17 budget, Governor Brown, has proposed funding for a competition to develop a high school math course that will bridge this gap.
As a result of the skills gap, a considerable number of new college students are obligated to take remedial math courses in order to enable them to cope with the demands of the college curriculum. In recent years, up to half of the CSU’s student intake has been required to take these courses via the university’s Early Start program.
The aim of the Governor’s proposed competition is to do away with the need for remedial courses, by ensuring that students are equipped with the mathematical skills they need — while they are still in high school.
Since 2003 there has been a similar program for college-level English, called the Expository Reading and Writing Course or ERWC, currently being offered in more than 800 high schools. Research has shown that students who took this course scored significantly higher on the English placement test than those who did not. Students also demonstrated increased levels of engagement and motivation. An important component for this program is comprehensive training for teachers, who reported improvements in their teaching across the board as a result of attending the workshops.
Even before the Governor’s proposal for this new program, the lack of high-school preparation in math and algebra has caused ongoing concern among academics. Last fall, a meeting of representatives from all levels of education, convened at LearningWorks, an Oakland-based organization for improving student outcomes, released a set of recommendations focusing on the need for all high school students to have access to courses that will ensure that they are fully prepared for college-level work. The recommendations explicitly included those students who needed to improve their quantitative reasoning in order to be equipped for college studies.
The proposed one-year course would be aligned with California’s Common Core Standards, and would target students who earned at least a “conditionally ready” score on the Smarter Balanced Assessment. A particular objective would be to help students cope with Algebra 2, which many 11th-graders find so hard that they abandon math altogether — it is estimated that up to 40% of students do not have any math courses at all in 12th grade. This not only means that they are completely unprepared for college-level math, but could disqualify them completely from admission to some campuses.
Overall, the hope is that this course will prevent many students from finishing high school with the belief that they are barred from a range of academic and career options, because of their lack of prowess in Algebra, or math in general. For this hope to be fulfilled, and for students to receive maximum benefit, the course will need to be engaging, accessible, and rich in practical application as well as theory — and, of course, there will need to be first-class teacher training. The LearningWorks recommendations were that the development of such a course should focus on “innovation and experimentation” — and this indeed seems to be exactly what the Governor has in mind.
If your child is struggling with algebra, calculus, or geometry, REACH Pro Tutoring has private math tutors that specialize in college prep. We’ll be able to bridge the gap in order to make sure that your student hits the ground running once they get to college! For more information on math tutoring in Los Angeles, Alameda County, Orange County or Contra Costa County call one of our enrollment specialists at (877) 947-3224.