California State University trustees on Wednesday voted to move forward with an independent analysis of a controversial proposal to require four years of high school math or related courses in freshman admissions.
The vote was applauded by education advocacy groups, who had called for CSU to conduct such a study before voting on whether to approve the requirement that could also be achieved through a quantitative reasoning course. Trustees originally had planned to vote Wednesday to formally authorize the requirement. They will now wait until 2022 to hold that vote.
“Any major admissions change has to be data-driven, evidence-based, and centered on equity. We are encouraged about the chancellor’s recent decision to delay the quantitative reasoning proposal and instead call for a yearlong, independent study,” said Elisha Smith Arrillaga, executive director of The Education Trust-West, an organization focused on closing achievement gaps and one of the groups leading the opposition to the math proposal.
The study, which will be conducted by a nonpartisan research group that has yet to be identified, will examine the potential impacts of the requirement. Depending on the results of the study, the timeline for implementing the proposal could be extended “or halted,” according to a copy of the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting.
CSU administrators say they expect the requirement to stay on track for implementation by fall 2027, impacting students who graduate from high school in 2027 or later. The requirement would mandate that freshman applicants take a fourth year of high school math or a quantitative reasoning course such as computer science or statistics.
“Ultimately, I believe that this phased implementation approach has proven to be and will continue to be a shining example of how we work together in California to the benefit of our students and to the benefit of our society. … But make no bones about it, we are committing to implement this plan in seven years,” said CSU Chancellor Tim White, who plans to retire this year.
White and other CSU administrators argue that requiring a fourth year of high school math or quantitative reasoning will better prepare students for college courses and improve graduation rates. They have also said the requirement would make students more prepared for future careers that they argue will increasingly require quantitative reasoning skills.
Opponents, however, say the proposal would make it more difficult for black, Latino and low-income students to attend CSU, arguing that many school districts lack the resources to offer the required courses and that the schools in those districts enroll high numbers of those students.
The findings of the third-party study that trustees agreed to Wednesday will be included in a report prepared by the next chancellor. A progress report will be due by March 2021 and the final report will be delivered to the board in January 2022.
The report also will include clarification on a process for exempting students who attend schools that don’t offer the required courses, as well as more information about a steering committee that will be commissioned to help guide the implementation of the proposal.