Ability Grouping Math Classes
by Jim Hopkins, school board member
The Virginia Standards of
Learning are updated once every seven years by the Virginia Board of Education. The Virginia Department of Education
appointed the Virginia Mathematics Pathways Initiative to recommend changes that will be made in the Mathematics
Standards of Learning. If approved by the Virginia Board of Education, the changes will be implemented in the
2025-2026 school year.
The Virginia Department of Education's website states: the "Virginia Mathematics Pathways Initiative has its
origin in a groundbreaking 2018 study from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM): Catalyzing Change
in High School Mathematics." In this "groundbreaking" study, one of the key recommendations is to
"create equitable structures in mathematics." That does not sound ominous until one discovers "structures"
means classes and "equitable" means eliminating all ability grouping math classes.
The study refers to ability grouping classes as "spaces of marginality and privilege." This
"groundbreaking" study is why the Virginia Mathematics Pathways Initiative proposes removing Algebra 1,
Geometry, and Algebra 2 from the Virginia Standards of Learning. The state cannot stop local school boards from
offering these courses, but if students cannot receive a verified credit, the students may be reluctant to enroll.
Based on the school board's equal educational opportunities policy, no one by virtue of their race or skin color should
be viewed as inherently privileged. Equity means all students should have equal opportunities to participate in
ability grouping mathematic classes according to their ability and achievement.
Removing Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2 from the Standards of Learning will
reduce educational opportunities for all students.
If there is an equity concern in ability grouping mathematic classes,
reducing the educational opportunities to make everyone
equal is not the proper solution. This "groundbreaking" study from the National Council of Teachers of
Mathematics fixes nothing except to line the pockets of college professors, consultants, and political activists
who are pushing these proposed changes on Virginia's K-12 school system. The Virginia Board of Education should
reject the Virginia Mathematics Pathways Initiative to ensure a mathematics curriculum that permits all students to
achieve their full potential.