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Bill to protect students from school math misplacement approved by State Assembly

SACRAMENTO — A measure to protect students from being relegated to less challenging mathematics classes – even though they meet the academic requirements for more demanding courses – was approved today by the State Assembly and is one step closer to becoming state law.

SB 359, authored by Senator Holly J. Mitchell, passed out of the Assembly unanimously, garnering bipartisan support. The bill requires public school districts to develop and adhere to performance and assessment-based standards for assigning youths to math courses, a first step in remedying the growing problem of “math misplacement,” which can impede a capable student’s progress both in learning math and advancing toward higher education and career goals.

A number of studies – including from the Noyce Foundation, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the Bay Area and Silicon Valley Community Foundation – found that African American and Latino students, in particular, were improperly held back in nine Bay Area school districts despite having demonstrated proficiency on state standardized math tests.

“Kids deserve the best shot we can give them at success,” said Senator Mitchell (D-Los Angeles). “Yet too many students who are working hard to build the skills they need to be successful in our economy are being prevented from doing so.”

While California increasingly relies on jobs and revenue from its science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) industries, that sector depends on the state to provide a trained workforce. Yet a 2014 Brookings Institution report, among others, shows that there are not enough qualified STEM workers. African Americans and Latinos hold fewer than four percent of the jobs at the six largest Silicon Valley tech companies. Given that nearly 60 percent of California's children belong to those ethnic groups, and given that technology jobs are projected to grow by 22 percent in the state over the next five years, opening a career pipeline for children of color into STEM careers is crucial for both them and the state.

“Math misplacement is a longstanding problem that has disproportionately impacted students of color,” said Dr. Emmett Carson, CEO and President of Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which sponsored SB 359.  “By signing SB 359 into law, Governor Brown can end this disturbing practice in our schools and ensure that all students have a fair chance to succeed in math. SB 359 presents an opportunity to increase the number of minority students pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math by ensuring there is a systematic process in place to protect them from being held back unfairly.”

With the link between math misplacement, technology worker shortages and persistent poverty now clearly visible, California cannot afford to allow students who are demonstrating they can overcome challenges in their backgrounds to lose earned places in high school mathematics.

Read the full text of SB 359. For more information about math misplacement visit