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Politico posted a nice roundup of new data from the U.S. Department of Education on March 21, 2014 that highlights racial inequities in education. They led with the provocative statistic that more than 8,000 three- and four-year olds were suspended from preschool in 2011, but most of the story covers how minorities have less access to important math and science classes and experienced, well-trained teachers.
Deep into the story, there’s a critique of the data that made me pause.
The federal report found that barely half of Georgia’s high schools offered geometry; just 66 percent offered Algebra I.
Those data are just plain wrong, said Matt Cardoza, a spokesman for the Department of Education. The state requires Algebra I, geometry and Algebra II for graduation, so all high schools have to offer the content — but they typically integrate the material into courses titled Math 1, 2, 3 and 4, Cardoza said. He surmised that some districts checked “no” on the survey because their course titles didn’t match the federal labels, even if the content did.
“It’s the name issue,” Cardoza said. “I think schools just didn’t know what to say.”
This is admittedly a digression from a very important point about access to high quality education in the United States, but I wonder if miscounting math courses is rampant. Increasingly popular International Baccalaureate programs call their advanced math classes IB Math HL and IB Math SL. There’s a lot of calculus in those classes, especially the HL. Are they included in the national data that say only half of all high schools offer calculus?
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