The Virginia Department of Education is looking to eliminate all accelerated math courses before students enter 11th grade through the Virginia Mathematics Pathways Initiative (VMPI).
VMPI is a joint initiative among the education department, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia and The Virginia Community College System.
A few of the initiative’s goals are; improve equity in mathematics learning opportunities, ensure that students are better prepared for college and career success and to collaborate with multiple stakeholders to advance mathematics education.
Under the initiative, sixth graders would take Foundational Concepts 6, seventh graders would take Foundational Concepts 7, and so forth. Once students enter the 11th grade they will be able to take advanced courses such as calculus.
In an informational video promoting VMPI, Tina Mazzacane, the Virginia Department of Education mathematics coordinator, said it’s important to ask what do students need from math courses.
“How can we create additional mathematics pathways that are rigorous but that help students to move forward in other dimensions besides our traditional math trajectory,” Mazzacane asked.
“We really need to take a hard look at what is it that students need to be learning based upon their own goals and based upon their own choices and the mathematics pathways initiative really helps provide students those options.”
Mazzacane acknowledged that current high school math courses are useful to some students, but she said others may need different applications of math.
“We do certainly respect that students need to work towards college and career and a lot of the mathematics that we teach today is very pertinent to that goal, but there’s also mathematics and applications of mathematics that we need to steer some students towards,” said Mazzacane.
Loudoun County School Board member Ian Serotkin posted on Facebook about the possible curriculum change, saying that his first reaction was that “it seemed absolutely bananas, and that it sets a soft cap on the number of higher math courses students are going to be able to take.”
Serotkin did mention that there were “some noble goals with this initiative,” pointing out that it provides a pathway for every student to be able to take calculus or a higher math by the end of high school, if they choose.
He also pointed out that the initiative would eliminate a current issue “of students being ‘locked in'” to their math track and being unable to get to calculus later on if they weren’t sufficiently accelerated in middle school.
Serotkin said he asked for the plan to be an information item at this week’s board meeting “to communicate this more broadly with other board members and the community.”
There is no word on how school districts will implement the plan. The state’s department of education is currently gathering feedback from the public.