Course Sequencing & Placement

Gao, N., & Adan, S. (2016). Math placement in California’s public schools. San Francisco, CA: Public Policy Institute of California. Retrieved from

In 2015, California lawmakers passed the California Mathematics Placement Act to address inequities in math placement by requiring that schools develop “a fair, objective, and transparent mathematics placement policy.” The legislation does not specify, however, what that policy should be. Districts are struggling to comply with the new rules, which bar many old math placement practices, such as placing students in math classes based on teacher recommendations alone. While many district leaders are working towards full compliance, some report that they need additional guidance. This new measure also highlights the need for objective and effective performance measures—for both students and district policy—to monitor improvement in placement equity over time. As with any major policy shift, it will take time for parents to understand and adapt to the new system and schools and districts continue to contend with changing staff rolls and staffing needs.

Boaler, J., Schoenfeld, A., Daro, P., Asturias, H., Callahan, P., & Foster, D. (2018). Opinion: How one city got math right [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Jo Boaler, Alan Schoenfeld, Phil Daro, Harold Asturias, Patrick Callahan, and David Foster wrote this Hechinger Report opinion piece about San Francisco Unified School District’s (SFUSD) approach to tackling high failure rates in mathematics and small numbers of students enrolled in advanced mathematics courses. After studying the research on the ineffectiveness of tracking and shallow curricula, SFUSD district leaders decided to challenge students with depth and rigor in middle school by offering students Common Core Math 6, 7, and 8 without acceleration in middle school. Since this policy shift began five years ago, data show that the number of middle school students with low performance rates in mathematics has dropped by a third. At the same time, the course repeat rate for students who took Algebra 1 in eighth grade decreased by 32 percent. Moreover, students who have traditionally underachieved in mathematics are also making gains in mathematics performance. The authors of this piece argue that this controversial policy shift is serving all students across the district well.