Many students are being unfairly held back because their school district does not rely on objective measures to determine their placement. The result is “math misplacement,” a practice that results in a student being forced to repeat a math course even though objective measures such as test scores indicate they should be advanced to the next course. Studies have shown that math misplacement disproportionately affects students of color.
The most egregious math misplacement issue occurs when a student is held back to repeat Algebra 1 instead of being advanced to Geometry. This can cause students to fall too far behind to complete the courses that colleges expect a math or science major to have taken.
Accurate placement is essential to preparing students for a college track and/or readiness for growing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). At a time when the state and nation face a shortage of qualified STEM workers to meet workforce demands, we must find ways to fix this leak in the STEM pipeline.
Please support Senator Holly Mitchell’s SB 359–The California Mathematics Placement Act of 2015. SB 359 will ensure that school districts adopt fair, objective and transparent math placement policies so that no student will experience math misplacement.
During his week-long tour which culminated with the first-ever visit to a detention facility by a sitting president, Obama said he was struck by the fact that societal inequities mean that some misbehaving kids end up behind bars instead of in front of a principal’s desk.
“When they describe their youth, these are young people who made mistakes that aren’t that different from the mistakes I made, and the mistakes that a lot of you guys made. The difference is that they did not have the kind of support structures, the second chances, the resources that would allow them to survive those mistakes.”
“If you are a parent, you know that there are times where boys and girls are going to act out in school. And the question is: Are we letting principals and parents deal with one set of kids and we call the police on another set of kids? That’s not the right thing to do,” Barack Obama
The School-To-Prison Pipeline President Obama described has serious life-outcome implications, as highlighted by the Campaign for Youth Justice fact sheet Key Facts: Youth in the Justice System. For example, “most youth are denied educational and rehabilitative services that are necessary for their stage in development when in adult facilities. A survey of adult facilities found that 40% of jails provided no educational services at all, only 11% provided special education services, and a mere 7% provided vocational training. This lack of education increases the difficulty that youth will have once they return to their communities.”
Equally troubling, especially in San Benito & South Santa Clara County, are the wide disparities in treatment across race & ethnicity. According to America’s Invisible Children: Latino Youth and the Failure of Justice, “Latino youth are 4% more likely to be petitioned, 16% more likely to be adjudicated delinquent, 28% more likely to be detained, and 41% more likely to receive an out-of-home placement. The most severe disparities occur for Latino youth tried in the adult system. Latino children are 43% more likely than white youth to be waived to the adult system and 40% more likely to be admitted to adult prison.”
There are alternatives to incarcerating youth, and they work. Community-based programs, including diversion programs, drug treatment, evening reporting centers, treatment clinics and family programs, have all been shown to be less costly than detention or incarceration and to help youth stay out of trouble and to not re-offend. Youth Alliance is launching pilot Restorative Justice & Youth Empowerment programs to help explore and implement some of these effective alternatives as well as currently providing youth on probation with opportunities for employment and guidance.
We could eliminate tuition at every public college and university in America with the $80 billion we spend each year on incarcerations.
It is promising to see President Obama pushing for Juvenile Justice reform as well as awareness being spread to the mainstream. Hopefully, in the coming months we will begin to see concrete pushes for less punitive and more effective alternatives to Juvenile Incarceration throughout the United states.