The San Mateo-Foster City Elementary School District’s recent proposal to change the sixth grade math curriculum has prompted much concern in the community. Many agree that improvements must be made, but disagree on how to design a curriculum that will best serve all the district’s students and deliver equitable results.

The district claims that learning losses associated with the pandemic and an inability to assess current fifth graders prevents it from placing students into typical sixth grade math pathways. As a result, they propose placing all sixth graders into a single heterogeneous math class and eliminating accelerated math. Such an approach, the district contends, will result in greater equity as, historically, the accelerated math program has lacked diversity. The failure to assess fifth graders, however, gives us an opportunity to retain and diversify the program. The district could give any fifth grader currently meeting standards the choice of enrolling in accelerated math. This would eliminate selection and testing bias that functioned as barriers to accessing the program in the past.

The proposed plan is fundamentally flawed because it treats the symptom of a problem rather than the root problem. A study by Child Trends Hispanic Institute has found that among kindergarteners only a three-month achievement gap exists between Latinx children and their white peers. Why is the district allowing this gap to widen year after year? Rather than wait until middle school to bridge it, the district should formulate a strategic plan that will close it early in elementary education. Such an approach would allow the district to retain accelerated math for those students ready to enroll this fall, as well as diversify the pipeline of students entering the program in the future.

Gayle Rana

San Mateo

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(8) comments


I just read this article to friends who have children in these grades, and would like to know what you mean by ...."This would eliminate selection and testing bias that functioned as barriers to accessing ......" What is testing bias? Their comments are that much this is prejudiced against those who just plain motivated to achieve. Math is math! Numbers are numbers. Thank you for enlightening us!

Terence Y

Thank you for the letter, Ms. Rana. So if little Taffy is much better at writing fiction than little Terence will the district limit little Taffy to one pencil per grade? If little Ray is much better in debate class than little Jorg will the district limit little Ray from talking? If little Dirk is much better at painting than little Rel will the district limit little Dirk to using only a single color, on a same colored canvas? Little Cindy always brings a better lunch than little Tommy so I guess its Nutraloaf for everyone? I didn’t realize a race to the bottom was a competition but I guess the SM-FC School District plans on winning that race. BTW district folks, there’s no law, evolutionary or otherwise, that requires everyone to be as good at math, or any other discipline, than anybody else.

Dirk van Ulden

Hello Terence - nice going. I have spent much time south of the border and through my wife have several relatives who are engineers, scientists and medical doctors. All of them are Latinos, the demographic that the Board considers under privileged and intellectually challenged. Are they kidding? How condescending! These folks are just as sharp as any of us and would be insulted if they were to read the gibberish that comes from the equity crowd. Racism is alive and well in San Mateo but not where most folks seem to think it exists.

Wilfred Fernandez Jr

You hit the nail on the head, Mr. van Ulden. Discovering I was placed in the JC Penney affirmative action plan sent me packing. Not only does this kind of thinking insult me, it places a wedge between me and those unable to attain the same advantage. Only racists could devise something so evil.


Little Terence,

Thanks for the shout out but I will have to decline the honor. There is no way I can compete with your fiction writing. No one in the DJ is better at fiction than you.

Ray Fowler

C'mon, Tafhdyd... you have to admit. Terence did find a clever way to illustrate his point. I'm certain there is a whole lot of creativity simmering in your keyboard, too.



Wilfred Fernandez Jr

Outstanding, Terence.

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