Press Release - October 5, 2015

Bill to protect students from school math misplacement signed by Governor

SACRAMENTO, CA — A measure to protect students from being placed in less challenging mathematics classes – even though they meet the academic requirements for more challenging courses – was signed into law today by Governor Jerry Brown.

SB 359 authored by Senator Holly J. Mitchell will take effect January 1, 2016 and requires public school districts to develop and adhere to performance and assessment-based standards for assigning youths to math courses by the start of the 2016-2017 school year.  The legislation is a first step in remedying the growing problem of “math misplacement,” which can impede a capable student’s progress both in learning math and advancing toward higher education and career goals.

A 2010 Noyce Foundation Pathways study had found that African American and Latino students, in particular, were improperly held back in nine Bay Area school districts despite having demonstrated proficiency on state standardized math tests.

“Kids deserve the best shot we can give them at success,” said Senator Mitchell (D-Los Angeles). “Yet too many students who are working hard to build the skills they need to be successful in our economy are being prevented from doing so.”

While California increasingly relies on jobs and revenue from its science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) industries, that sector depends on the state to provide a trained workforce. Yet a 2014 Brookings Institution report, among others, shows that there are not enough qualified STEM workers. African Americans and Latinos hold fewer than four percent of the jobs at the six largest Silicon Valley tech companies. Given that nearly 60 percent of California's children belong to those ethnic groups, while technology jobs are projected to grow by 22 percent in the state over the next five years, opening a career pipeline for children of color into STEM careers is crucial for both them and the state.

“The Governor’s action today marks a significant victory for everyone involved in working to end the disturbing practice of math misplacement in our schools,” said Dr. Emmett Carson, President and CEO of Silicon Valley Community Foundation, sponsor of SB 359.  “Now that districts across the state will be called upon to establish fair, objective and transparent mathematics placement policies, we can better assure that our education system is designed to give all children a fair chance to succeed.”

With the link between math misplacement, technology worker shortages and persistent poverty now clearly visible, California cannot afford to allow students who are demonstrating they can overcome challenges in their backgrounds to lose earned places in high school mathematics.

For the full text of SB 359 click here.  For more information about math misplacement visit http://www.siliconvalleycf.org/mathmisplacement.