AUSTIN (KXAN) — There’s a new state law requiring all middle school students who test in a certain percentile to automatically be put in advanced math classes.
The goal? Eliminating the equity gap. And it’s already made an impact on Central Texas school districts.
There was high energy in Mr. Kevin Taylor’s 8th grade pre-algebra advanced math class on Thursday.
“Regular math is boring!” a student shouted from the group eager to learn. This was in response to Reporter Jala Washington asking why the students wanted to take an advanced math course.
Mr. Taylor’s class is perhaps a bit more diverse than a few years ago, after some Central Texas School Districts—including Hays CISD—their policies.
“Their local policy shifted from teacher recommendation counselor recommendation, or using STAAR as a cutoff score, to looking at top 40% quintile of students performance, and then automatically enrolling them in advanced math in sixth grade,” Jennifer Saenz with the organization, E3 Alliance (E3) said.
E3, for years, has been pushing to get all qualified students into math classes aligned with their test scores.
This change set out to benefit students like 8th grader Madon. He’s now in his third year of advanced math classes.
“I just like to use my brain and always be challenged,” Madon said. “And I just like to keep track of my grades…I don’t like stuff to be easy.”
According to E3, there were major disparities they noticed that led them to dive deeper into a solution to encourage more equitable access to advanced math classes.
“When we looked at the data what we saw were huge disparities between those students that were taking Algebra One from our Asian and White peers to our Black and White peers.”
Now, a new law requires all Texas school districts to use what’s called an “opt-out” policy modeled after the pilot program in Central Texas. Parents can choose to opt their students out of this new policy if, for whatever reason, they don’t think advanced math is for their child.
E3 said that over the past three years, the equity gap between Black, Latino and White students closed by about 91%.
Teachers like Mr. Taylor plan to continue encouraging students to always reach their full potential.
“I believe that every student is capable,” Taylor said. “I think a big part of our job is convincing them that they can any kid can make it in an advanced class.
Seven districts in Central Texas helped shape this pilot program, which the rest of the state will now follow.