Kansas Board of Regents may drop algebra as a college graduation requirement

(The Sentinel) – One out of three college students in Kansas fails algebra, the vice president for academic affairs for the Kansas Board of Regents disclosed to the board at a recent meeting, and members are considering a proposal to remove the subject from graduation requirements.

Dr. Daniel Archer told the Regents that algebra, a freshman prerequisite, isn’t necessary for all students. Only 20% of majors require higher-level math than algebra, considered a foundation for calculus:

“We’re sending the majority of students down the college algebra road, which is really not necessary. It’s not practical. It’s not really needed. And it’s not relevant for their fields.” Archer added that frustration with algebra, having to take the course multiple times before earning a passing grade, can delay graduation plans, (and) even lead to dropping out of school altogether.

Archer recommended a “Math Pathways” alternative, which tailors a math course to match a student’s field of study — for instance, statistics for political science majors.

Regents spokesman Matt Keith says Math Pathways are a reasonable alternative and have been successful elsewhere:

“Math pathways are a proven strategy for aligning learning outcomes with the academic interests of students and the needs of business and industry. Many degree paths lead to jobs that require different math skills than college algebra. Students pursuing those degrees will be better prepared for professional success after graduation if they take a math or statistics course that is more aligned with their chosen field.

“Math pathways have been implemented with great success in states such as Texas and Georgia.”

But does the idea of ditching algebra as a prerequisite represent a lowering of standards in higher education?

The Sentinel has reported on the thousands of high school graduates in Kansas who require remedial coursework as college freshmen.

Jennifer Kabbany, Editor of The College Fix, a website covering higher education issues and which reported on the possible KBOR action, urges the board to reconsider:

“The Kansas Board of Regents would be doing a great disservice to students if they approve this policy and replace algebra with some watered-down basic math class. It would represent a dumbing-down of higher education and advance the erroneous belief young Americans cannot rise to a challenge.

“I took a remedial algebra course in college and I am the better for it, so I speak from personal experience. A basic understanding of algebra plays a role in everyday life as well as a wide variety of careers. For decades, students have managed to learn the subject with proficiency. Those tapped to lead higher education in the state of Kansas should not shortchange students or lower the bar. College is meant to be a challenge, not a walk in the park.

“If enrollment numbers are declining, perhaps it has more to do with the fact that colleges and universities have become woke indoctrination camps with an ever-declining return on investment. The Kansas Board of Regents has more important topics to focus on than finding a way to squeak students by with a weakened diploma.”

No date has been given for final consideration and a vote on this proposal.

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