While Administrators, Counselors, and Math Teachers all focus on student math outcomes, they approach their work from different perspectives and use different metrics. As shown in the Venn diagram below, administrators are focused on CAASPP scores, pass rates, and graduation rates; counselors on grades and high school graduation requirements (and possibly college eligibility); and teachers on student learning as evidenced by course grades and CAASPP scores. While these groups view similar metrics, they often do so from different perspectives.
The Intersection of Math Course Grades
From the teacher perspective, student grades are indicators of a students’ math content knowledge. A course grade is generally the culmination of at least two grades per week that can include tests, quizzes, homework, and participation. Anecdotally speaking, a challenge for teachers is student who earn grades below passing (Ds or Fs). These students either have large gaps in their content knowledge, do not complete assignments, have truancy issues, or all of the above.
From the counselor and administrator perspectives, course grades are viewed in terms of graduation requirements and college eligibility. In addition to the requirements for high school graduation, there are additional requirements that make students eligible to apply to a CSU or UC. These are called the A-G Requirements.
The complexity of the students passing through both sets of requirements is two-fold. First, in high school a grade of D is considered passing but a C is required for college eligibility. Second, students can achieve college eligible status by utilizing the University of California Math Course Validation Policy. The UC defines Validation as follows:
“When a student has successfully completed advanced work (earning a grade of C or better) in an area of sequential knowledge, the student is presumed to have completed the lower-level coursework. Validation can occur with just a semester of higher-level coursework.”
The Validation Policy inadvertently provides counselors an incentive to allow students who earned Ds and Fs to progress to the next math course in hopes of earning a C and “validating” the prerequisite D or F. Further, administrators are held accountable for high school graduation rates, making the Validation Policy an appealing option to improve this metric.
The UC Validation Matrix is available to the right for viewing and download.
Intersection of High School Graduation and Content Knowledge
Students who are dependent on utilizing the validation process often have gaps in their foundational math knowledge. The process of validation works on the concept that if a student passes a higher-level math course, they have learned all of the lower level math concepts. A student with a grade of C in IM3 is presumed to have mastered all math concepts back down through IM1. However, this is rarely the case as evidenced by scores on standardized exams such as the CAASPP, AP, and the SAT/ACT.
In addition, the math validation policy only addresses the course completion issues and can have negative effects on college admission GPA. While earning a passing grade of C or higher in a higher-level math course, the previous non-passing grades remain on the transcript. Rather than repeating the failed courses, student transcripts show all Ds or Fs earned which lowers their college admission GPA. This lower GPA impacts which colleges a student may be eligible for and/or admitted.
In conclusion, the use of the UC Math Validation policy is definitively useful for school counselors helping students reach high school graduation and college eligibility. The drawback is that students are not always college level math proficient. This leads to misalignment with work priorities of Administrators and Teachers. Students are being passed through to upper math level courses without a mastery of skills needed to pass the next class. This causes teachers to spend more time on review and/or students continue to fail. Finally, while students complete a college prep math sequence, they are not reaching state standards in math as shown by CAASPP scores.