At the California State University (CSU) Board of Trustees meeting, the Board will hear a proposal to require an additional year of quantitative reasoning coursework for admission to a CSU.
What is “quantitative reasoning”?
Quantitative reasoning is defined by the CSU as “the ability to think and reason intelligently about measurement, dimensions, design, capacity or probability in the real world… It invites students to think critically about problems in real-life contexts and intelligently develop and test solutions.” According to the CSU, inadequate quantitative reasoning preparation at the K-12 level worsens equity gaps that have lasting impacts on students’ academic and career options.
What exactly is being proposed?
The CSU is proposing to add an additional quantitative reasoning course to the “g – college preparatory elective” area of the “a-g” requirements. The requirement could be fulfilled through an additional course from area “c – mathematics,” area “d – laboratory science,” or a quantitative reasoning course from area “g,” which could include computer science, financial literacy, or Career Technical Education courses with quantitative reasoning components. A student would not be required to take the qualifying course in their senior year and could satisfy the requirement with a course taken as early as middle school. The requirement would increase the number of “a-g” courses that a student must take to be eligible for admission to a CSU from 15 to 16.
The proposal also allows the requirement to be waived for any student that, through no fault of their own, was unable to fulfill the requirement due to limited course availability at their high school. The exact waiver process has not been laid out in detail but the CSU has said it is leaning towards using a system where the California Department Education (CDE) identifies those schools that are unable to provide the necessary courses and then the waiver would automatically be applied to any student from those schools that applies to a CSU and meets all other minimum eligibility requirements for admission.
If approved, the new requirement would go into effect with the entering freshman class of 2026, i.e. students entering seventh grade in the 2020-2021 school year.
What is prompting the change?
The proposal stems from a report by the CSU’s Quantitative Reasoning Task Force that recommended revising the CSU’s quantitative reasoning admission requirements. Established in 2014, the Task Force was charged with reviewing the CSU’s “expectations for student proficiency in quantitative reasoning, both before college and at graduation, and to recommend changes to existing policies and practices.” The Task Force’s full report from August 2016, which included four recommendations in total, can be found here.
Citing research showing that additional preparation in quantitative reasoning in high school better prepares a student for success in college, the CSU believes requiring an additional quantitative reasoning course will help ensure that students admitted to a CSU campus are academically prepared to meet the rigors of higher education. Additionally, it argues that the proposal “supports educational and workforce equity by expanding access for all student to achieve their personal and professional goals, rather than limiting their opportunities at the point of college admission.”
Both K-12 and CSU stakeholders have raised concerns with the proposal.
Despite the CSU maintaining that this proposal would expand access and equity for all students, opponents of the proposal argue that it could in fact have the opposite effect. At a special forum the Trustees’ Committee on Educational Policy held on this issue on August 29th, a number of stakeholders raised concerns about the impact the proposal would have on students, especially students of color. Representatives from statewide social justice groups, as well as CSU stakeholders, argued that the new requirement would just be another systemic barrier that would serve to keep our most underserved students out of the CSU System and said that the current disparities and barriers in our K-12 education system should be addressed before imposing any additional admission requirements. Others questioned the lack of apparent coordination with the K-12 system and suggested there should be a more comprehensive plan developed in partnership with the CDE and other K-12 stakeholders.
The feeling from most commenters was that the proposal, while well intentioned, was premature and that the decision should be postponed while additional research and data analysis could be done, particularly on how the proposal would impact African American and Latinx students. The option of postponing the decision was also raised by multiple Trustees in attendance. A video of the full Forum is available to stream here.
The CSU Board of Trustees’ Meeting will be held in Long Beach on September 24-25, with the Quantitative Reasoning Proposal scheduled to be heard in the morning on the first day of the meeting. For the full September agenda item, click here. The proposal is then scheduled for action at the Trustees’ following meeting in November.
Additional information about the proposal can be also be found on the CSU website.
- Posted by Russ Miller
- On September 20, 2019