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Despite Reports, Virginia Not Eliminating Advanced Math Classes

Pixabay graphic
The Virginia Department of Education said it would not be eliminating advanced math courses for 11th graders, despite media reports saying otherwise. A curriculum change is coming but it’s only in the early stages. (Photo via Pixabay by Elchinator)

The Virginia Department of Education Tuesday responded to confusion around media reports that they were eliminating advanced math courses, as part of its Virginia Mathematics Pathways Initiative. A curriculum change is coming but it’s only in the early stages. 

Fox News reported last week that Virginia will  “eliminate all accelerated math courses before 11th grade as part of an equity-focused plan.”

The story revolved around a Loudoun County school board member’s Facebook comments, stating that Virginia will be doing a “MASSIVE” revamp of its math curriculum.

The news story prompted gubernatorial candidate Kirk Cox to tweet  he would “stop the development of the Virginia Mathematics Pathways Initiative,” and “replace the entire Virginia Board of Education,” if he gets elected.

In a press conference Monday to address the story, Virginia Department of Education Schools’ Superintendent James Lane said that’s not the case. 

“Virginia is not doing anything right now, in this space because we are literally just having conversations with the community about what they want in the next set of revisions,” Lane said.

Lane says math curriculum revisions take place every seven years. And any formal proposal to make changes occurs only after a year of gathering feedback and vetting by a committee.

According to VDOE, full implementation of a new math Standards of Learning won’t take place until the 2025/26 school year.

What is the Virginia Mathematics Pathways Initiative?

According to VDOE, the initiative is a joint project between VDOE, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia and the Virginia Community College System. Concepts for the Pathway began last year.

Their goal is to update math instruction for K-12 students by focusing on “reasoning, real-world problem solving, and conceptual connections,” instead of emphasizing computation and “routine problem practice.”

The initiative “imagines math instruction for students that integrates existing math content into blended courses for students typically in grades 8-10.”

According to an article in the Virginia Mercury, “In Virginia, like much of the country, most math curriculum follows one traditional route.” 

The Mercury, citing research from the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas — whose research has informed pathways initiatives in multiple states — “describes it as a course in geometry sandwiched between two courses in algebra. The larger goal is to send as many students as possible down the path toward calculus.”

Content from Algebra 1, Geometry and Algebra 2 would be blended into a “seamless progression of connected learning” and would not be eliminated, according to VDOE.

Right now, VMPI is a “discussion being held by the mathematics teams at the Virginia Department of Education to get feedback on what individuals may want in the next standards revision,” Lane said.

VDOE has a long list of ideas and guidelines based on initial discussions. Once implemented, the VMPI states it would still allow for student acceleration based on ability and achievement. 

On a VDOE website about the pathway initiative, the agency says, “It does not dictate how and when students take specific courses. Those decisions remain with students and school divisions based on individualized learning needs.” 

The initiative could add additional course pathways every semester in statistics, data science, modeling, design, and logic.

Once approved, the proposals would update Virginia's Mathematics Standards of Learning. Then Virginia’s public school districts would be responsible for creating courses, designing curricula and implementing the state standards. 

VDOE has created YouTube videos on VMPI and will be holding community workshops, including one today, April 27 on Essential Concepts for grades 8-10. 

The next meeting on the advanced pathways for 11-12 grade students will be Tuesday, May 25.

All sessions will be live streamed on VDOE’s YouTube Channel, starting at 6:30 p.m. with a 20-minute presentation from members of the VMPI Planning Committee.

Ian M. Stewart is the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News. He also produces and hosts the World Music Show for VPM Music — now in its 16th season. You can often find him riding his bike around Chesterfield County or on Virginia's Capital Trail. Stewart has won multiple Regional Edward R. Murrow and Virginia's AP Broadcasters awards for reporting and sound editing. He graduated from San Francisco State University with degrees in journalism and creative writing.