Civil Rights Survey: 3,000 US High Schools Don’t Have Math Beyond Algebra I

Stacy Teicher Khadaroo, Christian Science Monitor, June 30, 2011

To better diagnose achievement gaps and help education leaders tailor solutions, federal civil rights officials on Thursday released an expanded, searchable set of information–drawn from schools in more than 7,000 districts and representing at least three-quarters of American students.

The survey’s data show, as never before, the education inequities that hold various groups of students back.

For example, in 3,000 high schools, math classes don’t go higher than Algebra I, and in 7,300 schools, students had no access to calculus. Schools serving mostly African-American students are twice as likely to have inexperienced teachers as are schools serving mostly whites in the same district.

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The data can show inequities between nearby districts, as well as inequities within districts.

In Boston, for instance, where nearly 80 percent of students are black or Hispanic, 13 percent of teachers are in their first or second year of teaching. In the nearby suburb of Wellesley, Mass., where 81 percent of students are white, 4 percent of teachers are new to the field.

About 1 out of 5 white students in Boston is enrolled in at least one Advanced Placement (college-level) course, compared with 1 out of 12 for both African-Americans and Hispanics. Wellesley has racial disparities as well. There, nearly 1 out of 4 white students are in AP. For Hispanics, it’s 1 out of 6. Black students are 4 percent of the Wellesley district, but not a single black student is in an AP class, according to 2009 data.

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Part 2 of the new data set will be released this fall and will include information on AP test results, teacher absenteeism, and incidents of harassment and bullying. The data will also shed more light on which students are disciplined in various ways, and how much schools use restraint and seclusion–issues that have raised civil rights concerns in recent years.

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  • Question Diversity

    Course title inflation — Remember the phrase. It means that the actual work being done in a class is far lower than the formal title of the course. And it’s a big problem in black and Hispanic schools.

    Even if these schools have courses higher than Algebra I, I doubt much of any Geometry, College Algebra (Algebra II) or Trigonometry is being done in that class. Oprah even devoted part of one her shows about it, she showed a young black woman enrolled in “Trig” in the CPS school, and took her to Trig class at an almost all white collar county school, and she was lost. Oprah dug deep (!), and found out that her CPS “Trig” class was basically Algebra I.

    But even if you discount course title inflation, that many black and Hispanic schools don’t have courses beyond Algebra I isn’t surprising, because most people (even most white people) hit their “math wall” after Algebra I. You either grok math or you don’t.

  • Spartan24

    I would guess that the majority of high school students would not be capable of anything beyond algebra to begin with. Even if they do go to college most degrees do not require math other than what is required for that particular degree and there are usually several classes that would fulfil that requirement. With most college degrees being “fluff” I would also guess that most of these math classes are “theory” with very little actual problem solving. Also considering that most kids (including a percentage of whites and asians) are NOT college material schools would do better teaching kids to add, subtract, multiply, divide and balance a checkbook rather than factor quadradic equations.

  • X Squared

    One of the bad things our present school system does is inculcate a contempt for learning in most of its students. Hence, studying is “acting white,” in black parlance. I read with horror what minority majority, especially black, public schools are like. Why are we paying for this?

  • the Soviet Republic of New Jersey

    Please do not worry.

    Black’s SAT scores are not counted for admissions, for it they were none would get into college. Only white students will get rejected for not knowing mathematics beyond Algebra I. When I was in high school most of us had Algebra II, geometry, solid geometry, trigonometry, physics and chemistry. Many high school students use to take calculus and linear geometry. Most of you do not even know what I am writing about.

    Studies show that only 15 percent blacks are ready for college even though over 85 percent are admitted.

  • SKIP

    Algebra in high school? I had algebra in 6th grade in Kansas (don’t remember much, but that’s my fault) I bet that any student in any grade of school now can tell us all about MLK and that would be about ALL they could tell us about. There are of course, exceptional students, but there are no exceptional public schools now though I had the good fortune to attend them pre 1965 you know.

  • La Cerotita

    We took Algebra I in junior high, not high school!!! Then we HAD to take Geometry if we wanted to get into a college. Those who liked math went on to trigonometry and the calculus. I survived geometry and took a “survey” course in beginning trig and probability theory. The vast majority of kids today could not handle the types of courses we had in junior high and high school 40 or 50 years ago. They don’t have the background, knowledge or preparation for it. I flat believe the kids of today are, for the most part, inferior to their compatriots of the past. Somewhere on the Internet there is a copy of the exam to pass the 8th grade in the 1800s; today, kids with a B.A. degree could not pass that exam. Standards have fallen, fallen, fallen; the older I get, the more I suspect the Brits were right in having CLASSES of people, or levels of society. People are NOT equal in ability, and America is killing herself trying to make blacks and Hispanics equal to Asians and whites.

  • William Lovett

    The subtext of this article is that we should worry that blacks are receiving lower quality education than whites. But ask DeShondra if she really wants a white-level trig class–you can bet that she doesn’t. And her mom is unlikely to know much about math and unlikely to push her to take challenging math courses. So if they don’t care, why should we?

    I care that my kids get the rigorous math course. But in a school district that adopts a one-size-fits-all policy, and that selects a size to fit the 40% of students who are African-American, my kids are not likely to get that course.

    All of us should support voucher initiatives: it would allow us to get our kids out of schools geared toward “educating” students who simply don’t want to be educated.

  • Anonymous

    Algebra has virtually no purpose in practical life, even for very intelligent people in highly productive endeavors.

    I have an IQ of 130, but I had to take tutoring 3 nights a week in college to get an A in my one required quantitative and qualitative reasoning course…I realized in my Junior year that I’d need 16 straight A grades (my last four semesters, to get a GPA of 3.4.

    (I had blown one semester of statistics with a lousy C- grade, and got one other C, that time in my third semester of German). Other than that my entire (undergraduate) career was all A and B grades.

    And I went to the University of Colorado (Colorado Springs) when it was much smaller, and was an EXCELLENT school, academically. No fluff. Small classes. Great access to professors, no socialist agendas rammed down our throats, even if most professors were basically socialists.

    Now it is just a diversity circus, totally worthless, and costs four times as much as when I got a degree that was held in higher esteem than the toilet paper they pass out today, for good reason.

    But I wore out about ten volunteer tutors, and aced each section of that one damn class…hardest thing I did in four years, got the A, and just barely missed graduating with a 3.5, but I achieved my goal of a high 3.4.

    Got to graduate school, too.

    I suck at all maths.

    I have never ONCE been compelled to use anything more than a calculator in all my professional life.

    For those who will be engineers, they need maths. They will obtain these by going to all white schools, or getting tutored whilst being homeschooled. Public schools in even Colorado Springs are now officially welfare pens for the Latin American and other-third world invaders. Now schools openly advertise in multiple languages that FREE LUNCHES WILL BE PROVIDED ALL SUMMER LONG FOR EVERYONE 18 ANY YOUNGER.

    For the dregs in public schools, the flotsam and jetsam of the third world, who the hell cares? We’ll be either wiping their arses, or running from them to more pastoral, all white environs. All those people need is a bottle of Colt 45.

  • HH

    As usual, the problem is allagendly everything and anything BUT the black students themselves!

    “…students had no access to calculus.” Oh yes, that’s clearly an issue – becasue students who cannot read beyond the third-grade level or complete basic mathematics courses at more than the 20th percentile, are ever so likely to excel at calculus!!

    What madness all this is!!

  • Randall H

    Standards truly have dropped. Back when I was going through grade school 25 years ago, the highest math class in Middle School was Algebra, but High School level math went through Calculus.

    Interesting how they automatically chalk up the problem with black performance to white teachers. Always blame whitey whenever blacks can’t make the cut. But lets examine their evidence.

    Is there in truth much difference between a second year and a third year teacher (new vs. veteran according to the survey)? Or for that matter, is there any reason to believe a first year teacher won’t work as hard with the students? If anything, the newer teachers work the hardest and are still fresh with the PC ideology from college dancing around in their heads; the older teachers are more disillusioned having seen how the real world plays out first hand, and more pessimistic about black students.

    Also, is there much difference to the student body collectively in a given school for 4% new vs. 13% new teachers? Seems like a very small portion in either case. The vast majority of students will still be getting experienced teachers- Certainly this nonsense could not explain so many blacks failing at Algebra while whites are taking Calculus.

  • Question Diversity

    8 Anonymous:

    Unless it’s a high school explicitly dedicated to college prep or gifted students or preparation for engineering careers or something like that, I don’t see the need to require math higher than Algebra I. Most white people won’t use anything more complicated than simple algebra in their day to day adult lives, in fact, a majority of white people hit their math wall after Alg I. Are we to condemn them to a life of having a scarlett letter “D” for “Dropout” branded on their foreheads just because they’re average white people? Meanwhile, if you’re not exceptionally good at math, you might as well be bad at it, because there are only a small coterie of professions where being very good at math but not exceptional can get you by, one of which I happen to be in. While I do think the ability to grok math is an important proxy for one’s g-factor, therefore his or her ability to absorb other complicated material in other topics, I think that any person, especially any white person, who can understand high school algebra is well qualified to do a majority of jobs in this country.

    Like I said, everybody has a “math wall,” I hit mine at my first differential equations course. Luckily I passed it, had the sense enough not to go any further, and that was enough math to fulfill my accounting requirements, even though complicated math is only necessary while performing audits — Most of the time, even CPAs (I’m not one yet, I need a few more years of work experience in accounting/auditing to be able to sit for the CPA) only use arithmetic.

  • SKIP

    Like many of my age group (I will be 63 in days) I thought I would never use math in the real world. I am in power production and rarely a day goes by without my having to use math in various calculations, some of which are by nature related to potentially lethal operations.

  • ice

    No math beyond Algebra I. Really funny.

    Anybody who couldn’t pass basic advanced mathematics has no business in school to begin with and should consider a trade or janitorial work.

    Let me guess why this policy was instituted. Could it be that this is just one more dumbed down policy because blacks can’t do the work? Oh, heaven forbid.

    What is even funnier is that it is black who are protesting the policy, apparently deluded that blacks could compete. Probably what they had in mind was pushing blacks through whether or not they could do the work, then be able say X number of blacks completed Algebra II…or whatever.

    There are no good statistics about blacks that aren’t a pack of lies.

  • Alexandra

    In my old school district, an “average” student had pre-algebra in 8th grade, Algebra I in 9th, Geometry in 10th, Algebra II in 11th, and so on.

    I was in “honors” math, which basically means you’re a year ahead, so I had pre-algebra in 7th grade.

    I do not remember seeing any blacks in my honors math classes. For the most part they were in basic math.