Getting math placement right: SVCF supports school districts in following the letter and spirit of new law

Gina Dalma

On October 5, 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SVCF’s first sponsored bill, the California Mathematics Placement Act of 2015. This law seeks to address the persistent issue of “math misplacement,” which occurs when students are held back in math even though objective measures such as grades and test scores indicate they should advance to the next course. Now, SVCF is working with educators to help school districts comply with the intent of the law. 

The impact of math misplacement on students is significant. It can derail them from being able to complete all the courses they need to be competitive applicants for California colleges and universities during their four years of high school. When this happens, it also hinders the state’s ability to close the academic achievement gap. Closing the gap between low-income students and students of color and their peers is critical to developing a highly skilled, diverse and educated workforce that can keep California competitive in a global economy. 

Through SVCF’s strategic grantmaking program, we have been long-time supporters of education programs that enhance math competency and help students gain the necessary math skills to succeed in college-track coursework. In this instance, SVCF led the charge to address math misplacement, and the Mathematics Placement Act now requires all California school districts to adopt fair and transparent policies that take multiple objective measures into consideration before students are placed in math classes. 

We are not stopping there. We are working to ensure that our partners in these efforts, the school districts themselves, fulfill the intent of the law. Towards this end, SVCF has developed a free technical assistance toolkit for those who work with districts throughout California and for the school districts themselves. Toolkit resources include sample board policies and protocols, as well as a step-by-step guide for education administrators called “Getting It Right: A Practitioner’s Guide to Developing Transparent and Fair Placement Practices.” 

Our efforts also include a June 14 webinar in partnership with the League of California Community Foundations. The webinar is designed to help other community foundations in the state provide the necessary technical assistance for their school districts. We’ll be posting a recording of the webinar on our website to help others successfully implement the new requirements. View the full text of SB 359.

Learn more about math misplacement on our website.