But that positive view of people's motivations can be stretched to the limit sometimes, and I'm nearing that point with university math. Recently the chancellor of California's community college system recommended eliminating the algebra requirement for college because too many minority students can't/don't pass it (link). I'll take him at his word that he truly wants to help people earn an associate's degree; he and I would no doubt disagree on whether or not his proposal devalues the degree and hence the reason for earning it.
That proposal was bad enough. That was a stick of dynamite. Let's jack that up to bunker-busting-bomb level:
Cal State plans to drop placement exams in math and English as well as the noncredit remedial courses that more than 25,000 freshmen have been required to take each fall — a radical move away from the way public universities traditionally support students who come to college less prepared than their peers.When you see the words "equitable" or "equity" in an education context, run for the hills. Those words don't mean what they mean in ordinary English; allow me to translate:
In an executive order issued late Wednesday, Chancellor Timothy P. White directed the nation’s largest public university system to revamp its approach to remedial education and assess new freshmen for college readiness and course placement by using high school grades, ACT and SAT scores, previous classroom performance and other measures that administrators say provide a more accurate and comprehensive understanding of students’ knowledge.
Cal State will no longer make those students who may need extra help take the standardized entry-level mathematics (ELM) exam and the English placement test (EPT).
The new protocol, which will go into effect in fall 2018, “facilitates equitable opportunity for first-year students to succeed through existing and redesigned education models,” White wrote in a memorandum to the system’s 23 campus presidents, who will be responsible for working with faculty to implement the changes. The hope is that these efforts will also help students obtain their degrees sooner — one of the public university system's priorities. Cal State has committed to doubling its four-year graduation rate, from 19% to 40%, by 2025.
"Too many minority students have been placed in remedial classes, and that's not 'fair'. To solve this problem we're going to get rid of the remedial classes."
Sure, they're spinning this as a wonderful positive:
Under the new system, all Cal State students will be allowed to take courses that count toward their degrees beginning on Day 1. Students who need additional support in math or English, for example, could be placed in “stretch” courses that simultaneously provide remedial help and allow them to complete the general math and English credits required for graduation.This is a "social justice" action given the lightest veneer of academic respectability. I'm not buying it. I want to see evidence of improved math ability.
Faculty are also being encouraged to explore other innovative ways to embed additional academic support in college-level courses. A few other states have experimented with these approaches, and the results so far are encouraging, administrators said.
There is good commentary of the community college chancellor's idea in the comments on my three posts at Joanne Jacob's blog: