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Making a Space for Thoughtful, Purposeful Equity Conversations

October 8, 2019|By Leslie Gurrola

Everything Greater Texas Foundation (GTF) spends time and resources on—through grantmaking, research, convening, or other means—is focused on improving postsecondary outcomes for Texas students.

Early on in the foundation’s work, we learned that while mathematics matters for a wide variety of postsecondary pathways, it can be the most significant academic barrier to student success.

In 2009, as we were learning more about the importance of mathematics, the foundation surveyed two- and four-year postsecondary institutions in the state to ask for the first credit-bearing and most advanced mathematics course for seven academic fields: science, engineering, mathematics, health, liberal arts, business, and education. We found that although the specific requirements varied, students in every field were expected to complete advanced math classes, whether algebra or statistics or calculus, to earn a degree. (The brief was updated in 2015 and is available here.)

Fast forward to today, and, although we know math matters in high school and beyond, Texas students do not yet have equitable access to the math instruction they need to succeed. Only 49% of Texas students demonstrate college and career readiness in math upon graduating high school, as measured by their performance on the Algebra II end-of-course exam.

The excellent researchers at E3 Alliance have shown through their work analyzing statewide math enrollment and postsecondary outcomes that students who have the best postsecondary outcomes complete coursework well beyond Algebra II; however, equitable access to and success in mathematics pathways in Texas is lacking.

E3 Alliance has also shown that mathematics outcomes for Texas students differ based on factors unrelated to their mathematics ability, such as race, family income, and geography. With respect to geography, the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) in San Antonio recently found in their analysis of early effects of HB5 that rural districts lost 24 percent in Algebra II enrollment.

Supporting Mathematics Equity in Texas

There is good work being done in the state to improve mathematics (and, therefore, higher education and life) outcomes for students. Still, even smart, strategic changes in math instruction require an intentional and proactive conversation about equity.

Lauren Schudde and Akiva Yonah Meiselman recently studied early outcomes of the postsecondary-focused Dana Center Mathematics Pathways (DCMP) curriculum and found that DCMP students enrolled in college level mathematics at a higher rate than non-DCMP students, and those gains persisted over time. They also found, however, that White students were more likely to be enrolled in DCMP than Hispanic students, indicating that equitable access to this effective intervention remains a challenge.

As we at GTF continue to work with our partners in the K-12 and postsecondary spaces—hopefully continuing to see a narrowing of that divide over time—it is clear that equitable implementation of strong math models should be at the center of our conversations about what is working and not working for students.

By bringing together a strategic group of researchers and practitioners from around the state, MathEquity Texas, led by the Dana Center, does just this. At the first in-person meeting of this dynamic group, participants were asked to make a commitment to advance equity in mathematics. The commitments were both inspirational and substantive. You can find them here.

This is not easy work. Conversations about inequity and the root causes of inequity can be difficult. If you feel overwhelmed by the conversation or don’t know where to start, you can find in the commitments a broad spectrum of ideas and ways to get going – everything from introducing the equity conversation at a school or district to very deep tactical regional and statewide work.

MathEquity Texas is a natural extension of GTF’s strategy around mathematics and connects to more than a decade of learning and work. Broadly, to support this type of network, to make space for thoughtful, purposeful conversations, is a powerful role for philanthropy. We feel very fortunate and proud to support this network, to engage with known and new cross-sector partners, and to increase the number of professionals working to address the math pipeline in a way that is inclusive for all students.

This blog is part of a series from members of the MathEquity Texas community. Join the conversation about #mathequity on Twitter.

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Categories: Blog, Equity

About the Author

Leslie Gurrola

I grew up in a low very income area of Texas, and I have seen first hand how education can break the cycle of poverty and forever change the trajectory of families. For 12 years, I have worked at Greater Texas Foundation, where I have the great honor of helping to improve postsecondary attainment and address inequities in our education systems across the state.