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Low-Income Students Could Gain More Access to Advanced Math Classes

Fayetteville math teacher Kenneth Williams creates a life-sized right triangle in his classroom.
Jess Clark
File photo of Fayetteville math teacher Kenneth Williams creating a life-sized right triangle in his classroom. Legislators are now considering a proposal to expand access to advanced math classes in public schools.

A new proposal to expand access to advanced math classes in public schools is moving quickly through the General Assembly.

The bill would require that any student who gets a top score on their end-of-grade or end-of-course math exam be enrolled in advanced math classes, unless that student opts out. Representative Edward Hanes (D-Forsyth) filed a version of the bill last week and the measure has already passed in the House and moves on to a Senate vote Thursday.

Hanes says he was inspired to file the bill based on a News & Observer series that revealed that thousands of low-income students who scored a 5 out of 5 on their end-of-year math exams were excluded from advanced math courses, while wealthier students with lower scores were enrolled in those classes.

"That is fundamentally wrong," Hanes said, "That shouldn't be happening."

Hanes says the circumstances are particularly alarming because advancement in math classes could be one path out of poverty for low-income students, preparing them for possible careers in science, technology and engineering.

"We want the LeBron James's [of math] to get picked first for the team," Hanes said.

The bill received unanimous bipartisan support in the House, and if the Senate passes it this week, it would head to the governor's desk.

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. Email:
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