Math misplacement: what it is, why it matters and how you can help end it

Since 2011, SVCF has been steadfast in its efforts to eliminate “math misplacement” in our region and state. Math misplacement occurs when eighth grade students are held back from advancing to the next math course when they enter ninth grade, despite having demonstrated proficiency by objective measures, including California standardized assessments.

Silicon Valley Community Foundation is leading a statewide coalition to address math misplacement by working with California State Senator Holly Mitchell on Senate Bill (SB) 359—The California Mathematics Placement Act of 2015. Passage of this bill will ensure that all California school districts establish and implement fair, objective and transparent math placement policies. These policies will require fair placement for all students based on their proficiency as demonstrated through their course grades, assessments or other objective measures.

Why it matters

Evidence shows that math misplacement is a problem that impacts too many California students, and disproportionately affects students of color. When math misplacement occurs, it effectively limits students’ ability to compete for admission to California’s four-year colleges or universities. That’s because if they are asked to repeat the eight-grade-level course, students simply will not have time in their high school careers to complete the number of advanced math courses required to be competitive for admission. Furthermore, math misplacement can significantly hinder a student’s ability to follow a STEM path (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

This is not only a moral issue, it is an economic one as well. If we don’t fix this “leak in the STEM Pipeline,” our economy will suffer because we will not have a diverse talent pool to fill the increasing number of STEM jobs that are critical to our regional and global competitiveness. In the first quarter of 2014, 26 percent of total jobs in Silicon Valley were in innovation industries (biotechnology, clean technology, telecommunications services and information services). Most of these industries require significant competencies in STEM.

Here's how you can help

You can help prevent math misplacement by helping make sure SB 359 is signed into law. Join us in asking the State Legislature and Governor Jerry Brown to approve SB 359.  For more information, contact Gina Dalma at gddalma@siliconvalleycf.org