Of the Massachusetts graduates from the Class of 2005 who enrolled in public colleges, an appalling 29 percent enrolled in a developmental (remedial) math course during the fall semester. Nationally, 63 percent of college students who remediate in mathematics do not earn a 2- or 4-year degree. At a time when a college degree is one of the critical components of one's ability to afford a home and support a family, that such high rates of Massachusetts' high school graduates require remediation in math is cause for alarm - and action. The Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy has produced a policy brief that proposes a new pathway in high school mathematics aimed at eliminating the need for college remediation in math.
The policy brief, entitled Alternative High School Math Pathways in Massachusetts: Developing an On-Ramp to Minimize College Remediation in Mathematics, proposes a plan designed to significantly reduce, and ultimately, eliminate the number of students who require college remediation in mathematics.
Rather than the traditional progression of math courses (Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Calculus), we propose three new math courses at the middle and high school levels - including a new fourth year math course titled: Topics in Applied Mathematics for College Preparation that would provide an alternative to Pre-calculus/Calculus for students pursuing non-math related majors. We recommend that Massachusetts policymakers and school and district leaders should take the following steps toward establishing to a well-aligned, effective system that ensures all students are ready for college-level mathematics:
- Ensure mastery of arithmetic by the end of seventh grade;
- Focus on mastery and application of algebraic concepts;
- Offer the ACCUPLACER(R) test to high school juniors;
- Provide guidance based on the Elementary Algebra ACCUPLACER(R) score; and
- Encourage all students to take mathematics during their first college semester.