Pittsburgh to Take the Racism Out of Math in Public Schools

By greatbritton

Photo: LumiNola (Getty Images)

Math scores are down among students across the country. But when you zoom in on the disparity between Black and white students, the statistics are staggering.

According to the most recent data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, math scores are down 13 points among Black students, compared with six points for white students. And the gap is continuing to widen. The 35-point gap between Black and white students that existed in 2020 has widened to 42 points just three years later.

But Pittsburgh Public Schools wants to see those stats change. And they are taking an anti-racist approach to math instruction in an attempt to address racial inequity in classroom performance. The city’s most recent test scores showed that 47.5 percent of white grade school students scored proficient while only 11.6 percent of Black students did.

The Pittsburgh school board just approved a $50,000 contract for education consulting firm Quetzal to produce workshops for math teachers, educating them on preferable ways to present the curriculum to students of color. Their hope is that the new approach will have a positive impact on students’ grades and test scores.

According to Assistant Superintendent Shawn McNeil, the change is an effort to change the way students think about math – exposing them to people of color in STEM professions and allowing them to see practical applications of math in the real world.

“We’re talking about really a mindset and it’s an approach. So, whether we use the term anti-racist or talk about racial equity, it’s the same,” he said.

And the teachers say the new way of presenting the material is already making a difference.

“It was awesome to be given assignments and challenges like that last year and to think about how I can be a better teacher for our Black and brown students and make their learning experience even better here at Sci-Tech,” Julie Lazzaro, math teacher at Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy, told the local CBS affiliate.

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