Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Eloy Ortiz Oakley, California Community College Chancellor, Calls for End to Algebra Requirement for Non-STEM Majors

I know Eloy Oakley. Rather well, in fact. He was my college president for about a decade, then took the state chancellor's job last year.

Algebra is a huge hurdle. I suspect it's only a matter of time before the requirement's eliminated. Indeed, it's only a matter of time until GE math education is eliminated. That's the way it's going nowadays. Fewer and fewer difficult requirements (like being able to read and write at college level), and thus more assembly-line degrees delivered. Students literally can't pass basic critical thinking essay exams in my classes, but my teaching's an outlier. I don't care about getting great student evaluations. I'm not worried about being popular. My job's not on the line. I don't check "Rate My Professors." I just teach a rigorous curriculum and maintain high standards. Is that too much to ask? Apparently so, nowadays. You wouldn't believe how much push-back I get from all the "progressive" administrators, who will turn any issue or conflict into a civil rights case, almost always to the benefit of the student.

No wonder new teachers quit the profession after two years. It's so much hassle these days.

In any case, at the L.A. Times, "Drop algebra requirement for non-STEM majors, California community colleges chief says":
The chancellor of the California Community Colleges system says intermediate algebra should no longer be required to earn an associate degree — unless students are in the fields of science, technology, engineering or math.

Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley, who heads the nation’s largest community college system of 114 campuses, told The Times that intermediate algebra is seen as a major barrier for students of color, preventing too many from completing degrees. About three-fourths of those who transfer to four-year universities are non-STEM majors, he said, who should be able to demonstrate quantitative reasoning skills by taking statistics or other math courses more applicable to their fields.

“College-level algebra is probably the greatest barrier for students — particularly first-generation students, students of color — obtaining a credential,” he said. “If we know we're disadvantaging large swaths of students who we need in the workforce, we have to question why. And is algebra really the only means we have to determine whether a student is going to be successful in their life?

“I think there's a growing body of evidence and advocates that say 'no' — that there are more relevant, just as rigorous, math pathways that we feel students should have the ability to take,” he said.

Debate over algebra requirements has escalated in recent years. Failure to complete intermediate algebra has kept tens of thousands of California community college students in limbo each year, sparking contentious criticism of the one-size-fits-all math requirement in the state and much of the nation.

California State University administrators have been open to exploring alternative math pathways; they are consulting with faculty to determine which disciplines need to continue requiring intermediate algebra and which could be more flexible.

Oakley made the comments in an interview about a report released Monday that sets ambitious goals to improve student success.

The report by the Foundation for California Community Colleges noted that the state will need 1.1 million more workers with bachelor’s degrees by 2030 — but that only 48% of the system’s students earned a certificate or associate degree or transferred to a four-year university within six years.

“This anemic completion rate is a troubling sign for the overall health of California’s higher education and workforce development system,” the report said...