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Opinion

Letters to the Editor: Another year of quantitative reasoning isn’t a ‘barrier’ to Cal State

Cal State Long Beach
Students walk on the Cal State Long Beach campus.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Genuine educational equity lies in providing all students equal prospects not only for admission and graduation (access), but also for meaningful degrees that prepare them for lives and careers in the modern economy (opportunity). The California State University system is formulating a proposal to increase the quantitative reasoning requirements for admission in the belief that both access and opportunity will be positively impacted. Opponents fear that it will do the opposite, further widening pervasive opportunity gaps along ethnic and gender lines.

The only way to get beyond these conflicting beliefs and fears is by reasoning quantitatively: Look at the existing data and determine what is missing. Then, unpack, contextualize and challenge those data to inform policy. At the CSU, this type of critical thinking is pervasive not only in math and science courses, but also in history, geography and journalism classes.

The truth is, quantitative reasoning plays an essential role in how all of us live, work and vote. Thus, the fact that many students struggle when reasoning quantitatively presents a problem best solved collaboratively by all parts of our public education system.

I urge all sides to exercise patience and tolerance before rushing to implement or reject this proposal. If it needs improvements or safeguards, let’s figure those out and add them. If it threatens communities that are already underserved, let’s find ways to build faith and trust.

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Having that conversation is our way forward to ensure that all students arrive to college ready to take advantage of the opportunity it promises.

Katherine F. Stevenson, Altadena

The writer, a professor of mathematics at Cal State Northridge, co-chaired the California State University system’s 2016 Quantitative Reasoning Task Force.

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To the editor: As a retiree from the Cal State system, I read with interest the op-ed article saying that the proposed admissions requirement for another year of math or quantitative reasoning represents a “needless barrier to a Cal State education.”

While I agree that perhaps more research should be done on this proposal, I want to pose this question: Why aren’t borderline admissions applicants being steered to a community college first?

I encountered many students who did not succeed at Cal State because of poor preparation. They might not have incurred debt or suffered discouragement and resentment had they started first at a community college, performed well there and then transferred to a four-year school.

Not everyone is ready to attend a university immediately upon high school graduation. There is no shame in starting at a community college.

Lynne Osborne, South Pasadena


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