Texas is falling behind other states in mathematics education and is on the verge of making a decision that would irrevocably harm students for generations.
Nationally, there’s a movement to remove all accelerated courses from kindergarten through tenth grade in the name of “equity.” The Virginia Department of Education recently announced these intentions, which in practice would dump all students in each respective grade into a singular level of math—regardless of natural talent and hard work. Students would be required to spend the prescribed amount of time on every single course objective despite actual understanding. Teachers, parents, students and even a member of the Trump administration have come out against Virginia’s plan to weaken the state’s math education.
Removing accelerated courses cuts both ways. Students who require additional time to obtain sufficient understanding will be left behind without true comprehension in their math courses. Tutors will be necessary for these slower-paced students in order to keep up with their peers, but all students do not necessarily have access to tutoring resources or parents with an education attainment level conducive to aiding their children.
Problems also arise for high-achieving and naturally gifted students—if these students are forced to spend additional time on topics that were quickly understood days if not weeks prior, boredom likely will set in. Boredom has been linked to high levels of cortisol, the stress-causing component of the brain, and atrophy of nerves linked to spatial reasoning, verbal skills, and memory.
It would be a tragedy for Texas to give up on its math curriculum and in turn its students through removing accelerated courses. We should want the best for the next generation of Texas and a deteriorating math education is not favorable for success.
There are 28 states with better math curriculums than Texas, as well as eight other countries. These countries remain some of our nation’s largest global competitors in innovation, production, and entrepreneurship. This puts Texas students at a disadvantage when they enter the global marketplace and begin careers (whether immediately out of high school, through enlistment, or after completing higher education). Education is supposed to prepare the next generation of Texans, not release students into the world unprepared and struggling to keep up.
For now, accelerated math programs are the only pathway for graduates of Texas public schools to reach even the bare minimum standards of many other states. Texas’s top students are graduating with the math equivalency of the lowest math students from the majority of other states, and if Texas moves to eliminate all accelerated courses like Virginia, none of Texas’s students will be competitive in math or STEM in general.
At the end of the day, the issue of accelerated courses is rooted in the debate of greater schooling options and parental empowerment. The Texas Public Policy Foundation has always been a supporter of creating more educational opportunities for students. All students do not learn in the same way and therefore should not be thrown into the same courses—students and their families should have a choice in what and how they learn.