Ability   Grouping
Ability Grouping Math Classes
by Jim Hopkins, school board member
image missingThe 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 to improve equity is eliminating all ability grouping math classes in Virginia's K-12 school system. The study refers to ability grouping classes as "spaces of marginality and privilege." Surprisingly this key recommendation is the exact change advocated for by Critical Race Theory (CRT).  The "groundbreaking" study being used by the Virginia Mathematics Pathways Initiative is focusing changes in mathematics education through the lens of CRT.

If you desire additional justification for this conclusion, the president of NCTM from 2018-2020 has been researching CRT in math education for years. In 2008, he authored an article in the Journal for Research in Mathematics entitled "Access to Upper-Level Mathematics," where CRT was the study's theoretical framework.  In 2019, while president of NCTM, he authored a favorable review for a book entitled "Critical Race Theory in Mathematics Education." And in 2020, he co-edited a book, which focuses on teaching mathematics for social justice.

Where is social justice in teaching a student to solve a quadratic equation or a geometry proof?  I will concede there may be social justice issues in teaching history, but 2 + 3 = 5 in every nation in the world.  Mathematics is truly an international language.

There may be an equity problem in ability grouping mathematic classes but dumbing down our educational system to make everyone equal is not the proper solution.  Removing ability grouping mathematics courses from our schools will lower standards for all students. This "groundbreaking" study from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics fixes nothing except to line the pockets of professors and consultants who are pushing it on Virginia's K-12 school system.