(The Center Square) – The Pittsburgh Public Schools Board of Education will consider hiring a consultant to work with school staff on dismantling racism that they say is embedded in the teaching of mathematics.
Quetzal Education Consulting would receive $50,000 if approved at the Oct. 25 meeting. On its website, Quetzal Education Consulting states its workshops deal in “anti-racist math” and “will equip you to identify, disrupt, and replace white supremacy culture practices in math instruction with practices that center the wellness of students of color.”
The school board agenda stated “the purpose of the introductory workshop series is to identify, disrupt, and replace ineffective and oppressive practices in math instruction with practices that center the wellness of students of color and to provide opportunities for math departments and math teachers to grow their anti-racist math praxis collaboratively in pedagogy and instruction.”
School Board President Sala Udin did not respond to an email requesting comment on the issue.
In 2022, The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics hosted a webinar discussing anti-racist math. The council advocates for eliminating “all forms of tracking” to “eradicate the ‘dark suffering’ and the ‘spirit murdering’ violence experienced by many children of color in schools and through mathematics.”
The National Association of Secondary School Principalsalso refers to tracking as “a method used by many secondary schools to group students according to their perceived ability, IQ, or achievement levels.”
This means students are placed into different tracks to match them with the level of curriculum and instruction that is appropriate for their needs – whether that’s honors courses or specialized instruction for learning disabilities. Although it has been used for nearly a century, tracking has become a source of “intense controversy over the last 20 years.”
In particular, the National Council of Supervisors and Mathematics says the practice encourages “segregation, dead-end pathways, and low-quality experiences and disproportionately has a negative impact on minority and low-socioeconomic students.”
In a position paper, the council said tracking placement lacks transparency and accountability and does not improve achievement, but only “increases educational inequality.”
Tracking supporters say students aren’t confined to one level and can move in accordance with their performance. Further, grouping students together in this way offers more tailored instruction that encourages academic growth. A research article published by Education Next pointed to a study that found students learned better from peers with similar abilities and struggled more without tracking.
Nora Ramirez, an educator activist and board member for TODAS: Mathematics; University of Washington professor Julia Aguirre; Quetzal Education Consulting: and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics didn’t respond to emails seeking comment.