Summary: Math Proficiency
Learn More About Math Proficiency
- Math Proficiency
- Student Demographics
- Pupil Support Services
- Housing Affordability and Resources
- School Climate
- Academic Motivation (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- School Connectedness (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- School Supports (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- Caring Relationships with Adults at School (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- High Expectations from Adults at School (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- Meaningful Participation at School (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- Students Are Motivated to Learn (Staff Reported)
- School Motivates Students to Learn (Staff Reported)
- School Is a Supportive and Inviting Place to Learn (Staff Reported)
- Adults at School Care About Students (Staff Reported)
- Adults at School Believe in Student Success (Staff Reported)
- School Welcomes and Facilitates Parent Involvement (Staff Reported)
- School Attendance and Discipline
- Reading Proficiency
- High School Graduation
- College Eligibility
- Why This Topic Is Important
Basic math skills are essential to navigate through life, and competence in mathematics is associated with future academic and economic success (1, 2). Math is more than an academic subject—quantitative literacy is a gateway to opportunity and a foundation for achievement in school, work, and life (1). Nationwide, increasing emphasis is being placed on children's proficiency in mathematics, science, technology, and engineering, recognizing the importance of these fields in the 21st century (2, 3). According to a recent assessment, the U.S. ranked 38th out of 71 countries in math scores among 15-year-olds (4). In California, student math scores consistently rank among the lowest in the nation, even though U.S. and California scores generally have improved since the 1990s (5). Further, large disparities persist in math achievement by student socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, disability status, and English proficiency, statewide and nationally (1, 5). Critical to addressing these inequities, leaders must work to ensure that all students (regardless of social position or circumstance) have equitable access to high-quality learning environments and math instruction (1).For more information on math proficiency, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.
Sources for this narrative:
1. Burdman, P. (2018). The mathematics of opportunity: Rethinking the role of math in educational equity. Just Equations. Retrieved from: https://justequations.org/resource/the-mathematics-of-opportunity-report
2. Murphey, D., et al. (2017). Making math count more for young Latino children. Child Trends Hispanic Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.childtrends.org/publications/making-math-count-young-latino-children-2
3. Henry-Nickie, M. (2018). The 21st century digital workplace makes mathematics inescapable. Brookings Institution. Retrieved from: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/techtank/2018/09/11/the-21st-century-digital-workplace-makes-mathematics-inescapable
4. DeSilver, D. (2017). U.S. students' academic achievement still lags that of their peers in many other countries. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/02/15/u-s-students-internationally-math-science
5. National Center for Education Statistics. (n.d.). The nation's report card. Retrieved from: https://www.nationsreportcard.gov
- How Children Are Faring
Among California public school students who took the CAASPP Smarter Balanced Summative Assessment for math in 2021, around one-third (34%) met or exceeded their grade-level standard. At the local level, figures ranged from less than 15% to more than 60% across counties with data and from less than 7% to more than 90% across school districts. Statewide, disparities in math proficiency by English language fluency and socioeconomic status are large. In 2021, English-proficient students were more than four and half times as likely to meet or exceed their grade-level standard when compared with English Learners, and non-socioeconomically disadvantaged students were more than twice as likely as their socioeconomically disadvantaged counterparts to score at or above their grade-level standard.
Results from 2021 also show substantial disparities by race and ethnicity. For example, the percentages of California Asian (69%), Filipino (53%), and white (46%) students scoring at or above their grade-level standard were more than double the rates for their Hispanic/Latino (20%), American Indian/Alaska Native (19%), and African American/black (18%) peers.
- Policy Implications
Math proficiency has become increasingly important in ensuring that students are prepared for a 21st century workforce and economy (1). Despite sweeping state and national education reforms in recent years, student math scores in California have not improved substantially and disparities persist by race/ethnicity, income level, English proficiency, and disability status (2). Further, while K–12 funding has increased in California, funding levels remain below the national average, and school districts continue to struggle financially (2).
Policymakers and school leaders face significant challenges in improving math proficiency and reducing inequities among California's six million K–12 public school students, more than half of whom are socioeconomically disadvantaged (3). The state also is in the midst of revamping math instruction to align with Common Core standards while facing a shortage of math teachers (4, 5). Continued efforts and investments are needed over the long term to successfully carry out recent reforms, refine them, and ensure educational equity for all students (6, 7).
Policy and practice options that could improve math proficiency include:
For more information related to math proficiency and improving public education, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section or visit California Education GPS, EdSource, and the Institute of Education Sciences What Works Clearinghouse. Also see Policy Implications for other education topics in kidsdata.org’s Education & Child Care category.
- Providing all children with access to affordable, high-quality preschool or kindergarten readiness programs, which lay the foundation for later achievement (1, 8)
- Ensuring that the state's Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan, Local Control Funding Formula, and new education standards are implemented effectively at the local level; in particular, ensuring that reforms successfully support low-income students, children of color, those with disabilities, English Learners, and other vulnerable students (2, 6, 9)
- Creating a long-term funding solution for California's K–12 education system, and ensuring equitable distribution of qualified teachers and other school staff (2, 5, 8)
- Continuing to support evidence-based strategies to address the state's shortage of math teachers, such as recruiting new teachers through forgivable loan programs and service scholarships, and creating incentives to retain experienced teachers; also, diversifying the teaching workforce and building the supply of skilled teachers in early education settings (1, 5, 7)
- Ensuring that all students have access to high-quality, culturally responsive, Common Core-aligned math curricula and other classroom supports, and eliminating the practice of assigning students to math courses on the basis perceived abilities; also, providing school districts with adequate resources to improve math instruction, especially in Grades 3 through 8 (3, 7, 10)
- Addressing teacher bias (implicit or explicit) and ensuring that teachers hold high expectations for all students; as part of this, ensuring teachers have opportunities for ongoing, school-level professional development and coaching opportunities (4, 7, 10)
- Continuing to support pre-K–12 schools in creating positive school climates and developing comprehensive, evidence-based systems to address students' physical, emotional, behavioral, and other needs (1, 6, 8)
- Expanding the state's education data system and improving accessibility in order to provide meaningful information to local educators and leaders; also, ensuring that the system effectively tracks the successes and failures of reform efforts (2, 3, 11)
Sources for this narrative:
1. Murphey, D., et al. (2017). Making math count more for young Latino children. Child Trends Hispanic Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.childtrends.org/publications/making-math-count-young-latino-children-2
2. Public Policy Institute of California. (2020). California's future: K-12 education. Retrieved from: https://www.ppic.org/wp-content/uploads/californias-future-k-12-education-january-2020.pdf
3. Warren, P., & Lafortune, J. (2019). Achievement in California's public schools: What do test scores tell us? Public Policy Institute of California. Retrieved from: https://www.ppic.org/publication/achievement-in-californias-public-schools-what-do-test-scores-tell-us
4. Fensterwald, J. (2019). Ten California districts struggle, and find some success, as they shift to Common Core math. EdSource. Retrieved from: https://edsource.org/2019/10-california-districts-struggle-and-find-some-success-as-they-shift-to-common-core-math/615109
5. Darling-Hammond, L., et al. (2018). Teacher shortages in California: Status, sources, and potential solutions. Getting Down to Facts II. Retrieved from: https://www.gettingdowntofacts.com/publications/teacher-shortages-california-status-sources-and-potential-solutions
6. O'Day, J. A., & Smith, M. S. (2016). Equality and quality in U.S. education: Systemic problems, systemic solutions. American Institutes for Research. Retrieved from: https://www.air.org/resource/brief/equality-and-quality-us-education-systemic-problems-systemic-solutions
7. Burdman, P. (2018). The mathematics of opportunity: Rethinking the role of math in educational equity. Just Equations. Retrieved from: https://justequations.org/resource/the-mathematics-of-opportunity-report
8. Children Now. (2022). 2022 California children's report card: A survey of kids' well-being and roadmap for the future. Retrieved from: https://www.childrennow.org/portfolio-posts/2022-california-childrens-report-card
9. California Department of Education. (2022). California ESSA consolidated state plan. Retrieved from: https://www.cde.ca.gov/re/es
10. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (n.d.). Principles to actions: Executive summary. Retrieved from: https://www.nctm.org/PtA
11. Koppich, J. E., et al. (2019). Developing a comprehensive data system to further continuous improvement in California. Policy Analysis for California Education. Retrieved from: https://www.edpolicyinca.org/publications/developing-comprehensive-data-system-further-continuous-improvement-california
- Research & Links
- Websites with Related Information
- American Institutes for Research: Mathematics Education
- California Collaborative for Educational Excellence
- California Collaborative on District Reform. American Institutes for Research.
- California Education GPS. Alliance for Continuous Improvement.
- California School Boards Association: Governance and Policy Resources
- Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning. WestEd.
- Education Commission of the States
- Education Trust–West
- Institute of Education Sciences: What Works Clearinghouse. U.S. Dept. of Education.
- Just Equations. Opportunity Institute.
- Public Policy Institute of California: K-12 Education
- Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis
- Teaching and Learning: Mathematics. California Dept. of Education.
- Key Reports and Research
- Achievement in California’s Public Schools: What Do Test Scores Tell Us? (2019). Public Policy Institute of California. Warren, P., & Lafortune, J.
- Building Systems of Integrated Student Support: A Policy Brief for Local and State Leaders. (2019). America’s Promise Alliance. Wasser Gish, J.
- Changing the Equation: Ensuring the Common Core Math Standards Enable All Students to Excel in California Schools. (2015). Education Trust–West. Banks, A., & LaFors, J.
- College Readiness in the Era of Common Core. (2018). Getting Down to Facts II. Kurlaender, M., et al.
- Getting Down to Facts II. Policy Analysis for California Education.
- Health and Academics. (2019). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- How Family, School, and Community Engagement Can Improve Student Achievement and Influence School Reform. (2017). Nellie Mae Education Foundation. Wood, L., & Bauman, E.
- Making Math Count More for Young Latino Children. (2017). Child Trends Hispanic Institute. Murphey, D., et al.
- Solving California’s Mathematics Problem: Equity, Capacity, and System Improvement. (2018). California Collaborative on District Reform.
- Student Achievement Analysis: Results of the 2018-19 Smarter Balanced Assessments. (2019). Education Trust–West.
- The Essentials of California’s Education System Upgrades. (2018). Alliance for Continuous Improvement.
- The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015: What It Means for Equity and Accountability in California. (2015). Education Trust–West.
- The Mathematics of Opportunity: Rethinking the Role of Math in Educational Equity. (2018). Just Equations. Burdman, P.
- Understanding the Common Core State Standards in California. (2017). EdSource. Harrington, T.
- Unlocking Learning II: Math as a Lever for English Learner Equity. (2018). Education Trust-West. Ruffalo, R.
- County/Regional Reports
- 2023 California County Scorecard of Children's Well-Being. Children Now.
- Annual Report on the Conditions of Children in Orange County. Orange County Children's Partnership.
- Collaborating for Equity: A Scan of the Los Angeles Educational Ecosystem. (2015). Annenberg Institute for School Reform, Brown University. Potochnik, T., & Romans, A. N.
- Important Facts About Kern’s Children. Kern County Network for Children.
- New Measures, Similar Results: Oakland Public Schools and the New State Dashboard. (2018). Oakland Achieves Partnership.
- Orange County Community Indicators Report. Orange County Business Council, et al.
- Pursuing Equity and Excellence in Mathematics: Course Sequencing and Placement in San Francisco. (2019). California Collaborative on District Reform. Knudson, J.
- San Mateo County All Together Better. San Mateo County Health.
- Santa Clara County Children's Data Book. Santa Clara County Office of Education, et al.
- Santa Monica Youth Wellbeing Report Card. Santa Monica Cradle to Career.
- More Data Sources For Math Proficiency
- 2022 KIDS COUNT Data Book: State Trends in Child Well-Being. Annie E. Casey Foundation.
- California School Dashboard. California Dept. of Education.
- DataQuest. California Dept. of Education.
- Education Data Partnership (Ed-Data) California Dept. of Education, et al.
- Local Control Funding Formula Reports. California Dept. of Education.
- National Center for Education Statistics: Data and Tools. U.S. Dept. of Education, Institute of Education Sciences.
- Test Results for California's Assessments. California Dept. of Education.
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