Parents Outraged As School Board Cuts Advanced Math Classes Over Racial Disparities
Parents of students from a Cambridge, Massachusetts, public school are newly outraged over a 2017 decision made by the school board to end advanced math courses after finding white and Asian children were overwhelmingly being fast-tracked.
According to the Daily Mail, Cambridge Public Schools (CPS) district officials noticed extreme racial disparities when assessing which students were offered advanced learning. After finding that Black and Latino children were often relegated to lower-level courses, the district began phasing out the programs resulting in Algebra I being removed from all middle school curricula, affecting four schools in CPS.
Now, parents are arguing that the school board’s decision further increases inequality as only students who can afford private tutors have the opportunity to tackle more complex and advanced math lessons. “They’re shortchanging a significant number of students, overwhelmingly students from less-resourced backgrounds, which is deeply inequitable,” said Jacob Barandes, a district parent and a Harvard physicist.
Former and current school board members seem to be split on what the original intention of the probe into possible racial disparities in advanced courses was; however, there was once a mandate to have every eighth grader in the district take Algebra I before entering high school, according to the Daily Mail. “Algebra by eighth grade was voted upon many times over the past 30 years,” said Patty Nolan, a current Cambridge city councilor and former school board member. “And unless I am mistaken, the School Committee has not rescinded its many votes that algebra for every eighth-grader is a goal.”
Still, concerns over the divisive nature of the courses came to a head in 2019.
“Over time, you end up with lower-level math courses filled with Black and Latino children and high-level advanced math classes with white and Asian children,” said Manuel Fernandez, then a principal at one of the district’s public schools. “Students internalize it—they believe the smart kids are the white kids. Our staff said we cannot continue to divide our students this way.”
Though some parents have decided the best course of action is to remove their children from CPS, there are plans to help remedy the outrage, according to the Daily Mail. CPS Superintendent Victoria Greer believes the decision will help further make up for socioeconomic factors that often leave some children behind while accelerating others forward. “We have a huge focus on addressing both the academic achievement gaps and the opportunity gaps in our community,” she said. “One thing the district is not interested in doing is perpetuating those gaps.”