A Call to Action to Improve Math Placement Policies and Processes

This call to action is based on a simple but impor tant premise: The nation cannot allow placement policies, processes, and instruments to undermine promising efforts to increase student success in mathematics and increase attainment of STEM credentials. Efforts to redesign math pathways hold great promise for improving the teaching and learning experiences of students who need college algebra—many of whom are STEM students—and helping those students persist toward and maintain STEM aspirations. But placement policies, processes, and instruments have not kept pace with math redesign efforts.


The nation needs more students prepared for STEM jobs—particularly low-income students, students of color, and underprepared students who historically have not had equitable access to preparation for and on-ramps to well-paying, dynamic STEM careers. To meet this need, mathematics course pathways must be a lever for helping students maintain and even increase their STEM aspirations. At the moment, however, far too many math courses—especially developmental math courses—serve as a serious obstacle and even deterrent to STEM-interested students seeking STEM credentials.

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