Just Equations: Celebrating A Win For Equity

February 2nd, 2023
Rick Angel 250x250
Rick Angel
Senior Communications Manager

Jenn BeVard, Director of Operations and Programs at Just Equations

Just Equations is a small but mighty independent policy institute focused on reconceptualizing the role of math in ensuring educational equity. In 2019, we discovered a proposed policy by the California State University (CSU) that would have posed a barrier in college access to our state’s most vulnerable students by requiring an additional year of quantitative reasoning for admission. Four years later, at the height of a momentous win for future CSU students, I am thankful for our friends at the Campaign for College Opportunity and the Education Trust-West for the vision to identify the risk of the proposed policy for California’s students and the leadership to ensure it didn’t move forward.

That’s why it was so important for us to address the quantitative reasoning requirement, with these partnerships that hold equity at their center. Without this collaboration, I truly don’t believe we’d be here celebrating this monumental win for California students.

The CSU’s decision against adding a fourth year of quantitative reasoning is especially remarkable because it required something that seems increasingly difficult for many to do these days: it required people to change their minds.

You don’t have to look long or hard to find headlines and Twitter threads full of division and people digging their heels in. It takes a lot of fighting to be heard in such a culture and in a system that values some voices and marginalizes others. And yet, even when you’re loud enough, there are people who will ignore the research and science right in front of them.

Since the CSU first proposed expanding quantitative reasoning requirements, Just Equations has repeatedly said “Where’s the research?” Where is the research that shows this will enhance equity for California students?

The goal of expanding students’ quantitative reasoning abilities is a worthy one, but CSU’s claim that the additional requirement would contribute to educational equity was never supported.

Requirements can be problematic when only some students have a fair chance of meeting them, based on the opportunities they’ve had or the schools they’ve attended.

All of us here today know that, rather than indicating college readiness, these courses are often merely indicators of privilege. But in 2019 we still needed to show this to the CSU.

Today, we have the research to bolster those claims. And that research comes from the MRDC report commissioned by the CSU in response to this coalition’s efforts.

It took time, but today we’re grateful to see the CSU acknowledge the research we said was needed and act on it! They changed their minds and changed course!

Rather than creating barriers to access the system, CSU’s new direction builds on its historical work to promote math readiness.

And it gives me hope for our continued partnership and efforts as we work to make sure every student in California has a mathematics education that opens the doors to college opportunity.

Looking ahead, there are still many conversations to be had about the California math framework, high school graduation requirements, and tracking and placement policies–to ensure we find the most beneficial path forward for students.

The CSU will play an important role in all of these conversations and we hope the board will remember what we’ve accomplished today.

And we hope it will move forward with more evidence-based decisions that use math as a stepping stone, not a stumbling block, to opportunity. As the People’s University, the CSU must strive for this. And together we will continue to make sure that through the chaos, they hear the people’s voices, and, above all, the students’ voices.