The Math Course-taking study, conducted by Liza Herzog of the Philadelphia Education Fund and Elizabeth N. Farley-Ripple of the University of Delaware, examines math course-taking and achievement trends across the School District of Philadelphia, beginning with ninth grade students in 2002–03 and following them three years forward to 2005–06.
We found that fewer students than ever are taking math, that Algebra I serves as a gateway to success in advanced math and science courses, that too few of our students are taking high-level math courses, and that less than 20% of students in our study took and passed Algebra II, often seen as the primary predictor of postsecondary success.
For Philadelphia's students to remain competitive in today's job market, a rigorous math curriculum is vitally important. With nearly one-third of new jobs projected to be in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) by 2014, math access and opportunity is critical to the success of our young people.
In order to think big (for instance, which policy changes might help make progress a reality for more of our youth?), we to need start small in the classroom, with a solid foundation in math. Building that base requires that Philadelphia schools offer high-level math courses to all students; continue to develop math curricula that integrate concepts in a fluid manner; require not just math credits but specific math courses; and create engaging math programming, both in and out of the classroom.