SBE closes the book on revised math framework adoption saga

After nearly four years of rewrites, debates and thousands of public comments, the State Board of Education adopted a revised K-12 Mathematics Framework during its July 12–13 meeting.

“One of the things I realize is that at the heart of every comment … children are at the heart of it. Everyone wants to be sure that all of our students in California are able to be strong in mathematics content and that they’re able to receive the level of instruction that is necessary for them to realize what life could be beyond high school. This particular framework strikes to do that,” said board Vice President Cynthia Glover Woods. “The document we have is guidance, and every local school district has and should take that opportunity to design the coursework and instructional pathways that are most relevant to the students they serve in their community.”

The framework is meant to support implementation of the California Common Core State Standards for Mathematics by offering guidance for enacting the standards through curriculum and instructional approaches grounded in research and reflecting best practices in learning and equity.

While district use of the recommendations and guidance for math instruction is voluntary, the framework is likely to heavily influence local educational agencies’ decisions and serve as guidelines for textbook publishers.

This third version of the framework, which took 14 months to complete, was crafted by a new set of writers connected with the Region 15 Comprehensive Center of WestEd in response to more than 900 comments and petitions submitted to the California Department of Education.

While California saw less pandemic-related decline than other states on the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the state still ranks below the national average on NAEP’s fourth- and eighth-grade math assessments. Additionally, only 33 percent of students met or exceeded mathematics proficiency standards on the state’s 2022 Smarter Balanced assessment, with substantial achievement gaps among Black, Latino and American Indian/Alaska Native students.

Against this backdrop, the new framework includes guidance to help educators to structure the teaching of the state’s rigorous standards around “big ideas” that integrate rather than isolate TK–12 math concepts. The framework’s instructional approach is meant to connect learning to the “real world” through “authentic examples and use of data” to spark student curiosity and encourage inquiry, problem solving and deep learning. It also includes guidance to help educators make math instruction culturally relevant and empowering, thus allowing students to see themselves in curriculum and in math-related careers.

The framework clarifies guidance around meeting the needs of high-achieving learners as well as those who need greater assistance. The aim is to ensure attention is paid to a range of instructional options, including personalized learning, differentiated instruction, strategic grouping, additional course-taking opportunities and acceleration to ensure students can still take advanced mathematics courses like calculus and statistics during high school.

One significant point of contention for some critics is the recommendation that most students shouldn’t take Algebra I until ninth grade. Those who are capable should be tested for algebra readiness, and schools should consider offering them summer courses, according to the guidance. To reach calculus, these students would have to double up math courses or enroll in a summer course. For students with extracurriculars or low-income students with jobs, such obstacles could hinder plans to pursue a science, technology, engineering or mathematics concentration in college.

Proponents of the framework argue that this would limit tracking, the practice of identifying students potentially advanced in math as early as elementary school, which they say can harm children by stunting the self-image, aspirations and abilities of non-tracked students who tend to be low-income African American and Hispanic children. As an alternative to eighth-grade algebra, the framework recommends that a task force determines whether eliminating redundancies in the content of current courses could reduce four courses — Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II and Precalculus — to three and reach advanced math like calculus by senior year.

Additionally, Instructional Quality Commission Executive Director Mike Torres told the board the framework would be updated as needed after approval to align with the July 7 decision made by the University of California’s Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools to disallow data science as a substitute for Algebra II as a course requirement.

Moving forward, intensive training will be critical for teachers, as will resources to help districts communicate to students and families about the framework.

“There remains a mismatch between the approach to instruction outlined within the framework and the current conditions in schools. For successful implementation, the instructional practices outlined within this framework would require significant new and ongoing investments with resources not currently available,” CSBA Legislative Advocate Carlos Machado said in a prepared statement. “We urge the state board and CDE to develop resources and tools to help districts communicate potential changes in pathways. Rather than have 1,000 school districts individually attempt to design communication tools for family engagement and to build a shared understanding of the vision outlined within this framework, the state can play a vital role in supporting districts from the start.”

Descriptions of what is included in the framework, including changes made in response to public comment, and a general overview are available. Despite many changes having been incorporated, critics continue to express lingering concerns.

Chronic Absenteeism accountability indicator

During the board’s March 2023 meeting, high rates of absenteeism (an increase from a statewide average of 14.3 percent in 2020–21 to 30 percent in 2021–22) and the subsequent surge in LEAs determined to be eligible for assistance under state and federal accountability requirements were explored. Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10 percent of the school year. CDE developed short-term and long-term options and considerations for the Chronic Absenteeism Indicator as part of the 2023 accountability workplan, which were discussed during the July 2023 meeting for future action during the board’s September meeting (Attachment 1, included in the agenda item, provides a breakdown of each proposed modification).

Short-term modifications include adjusting the cut points for status and/or change levels; the performance level color scheme for five-by-five colored grid; and/or the chronically absent student calculation methodology.

Long-term modifications include replacing the chronic absenteeism indicator from the California School Dashboard for accountability purposes or modifying the granularity of information collected around student absences.

Several board members suggested any potential changes would be better suited for the 2024 accountability workplan.

Stronger Connections Grant eligibility

The board approved the criteria for the definition of a “high-need” LEA as required in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) Stronger Connections Grant (SCG) program. The BSCA, signed in June 2022 in response to the epidemic of gun violence affecting schools, encourages the development of school safety and climate plans focused on evidence-based strategies for creating safe and supportive learning environments that address local conditions and are informed by authentic community support. Plans should include culturally and linguistically responsive practices.

Following board approval, California will consider — for the purposes of the SCG — high-need LEAs to be those with a concentration of 80 percent or more of students from low-income families, English learners and students in foster care, plus at least one of the following characteristics: A chronic absenteeism rate, exclusionary discipline rate or dropout rate higher than the state average, or a school stability rate lower than the state average.

In other State Board meeting news:

  • Staff provided a summary of developments and updates related to the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) and the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC) as well as an update on national and international assessments.
  • The board also approved the 2022–23 School Accountability Report Card (SARC) template, which was modified to: (1) align with new state and federal accountability reporting requirements, (2) remove references to the COVID-19 pandemic statewide assessment requirements, and (3) update the school years and fiscal years to reflect the date of the data collection.
  • The board approved commencement of a 45-day public comment period for proposed amendments to California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 11520 (regarding the California high school proficiency exam) as well as the commencement of a 45-day public comment period for proposed amendments to California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Article 2 title, sections 11530 and 11531, the deletion of Section 11532, and the addition of Section 11532.5 (regarding the high school equivalency program).

The next State Board meeting is scheduled for Sept. 13–14, 2023. View the full meeting calendar.