For Immediate Release - March 24, 2011

Board of Higher Ed Adopts New Math Standard for Admissions Policies at Mass 4-Year Public Universities

4 Years of Required High School Math Likely Beginning In 2016

FITCHBURG, MA - Tuesday, March 22, 2011 - Moving forward with the state's Vision Project agenda to improve college readiness and college graduation rates, the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education (BHE) voted today to set a new standard for approving admissions policies to the state's four-year universities, one that will include four years of high school mathematics beginning in fall, 2016.

The Board vote will have a direct impact on the admissions policies set by the boards of Massachusetts' state universities and the University of Massachusetts. The BHE plan mandates that admissions policies proposed by the Commonwealth's state universities and the University of Massachusetts include Algebra I and II and Geometry or Trigonometry or comparable coursework, and that at least one math course be taken during the final year of high school. Beginning in five years, a Massachusetts high school student hoping to attend one of the state's four-year public universities will need to complete a full four years of mathematics in order to be considered for admission.

"Students entering our state universities and UMass need to be prepared for a rigorous academic experience," said Charles Desmond, Chairman of the Board of Higher Education following the Board meeting at Fitchburg State University. "This vote puts Massachusetts in the vanguard of states that are increasing expectations for students from preschool to graduate school. Strong mathematics ability is no longer an option. It is essential knowledge for every student given the demands of our 21st century economy."

"Massachusetts already sets the bar high for our students, and this decision raises our expectations that much more," said Dr. Carol R. Johnson, Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools. "In Boston, we have dramatically increased the number of students who take Algebra I in 8th grade, because we know that higher standards and greater expectations are on the way in high school and in college. Many of our high schools in Boston already require four years of mathematics; today's vote will ensure that all high schools - everywhere in Massachusetts - will soon excel at the same high standards."

Current admission standards mandate three years of mathematics. The additional 4th year of math aligns with the MassCore curriculum adopted by the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in November, 2007. Since that Board does not set local graduation standards, however, the fourth year of mathematics is not currently a statewide requirement. As of February 2010, at least 94 of the state's high schools required a fourth year of math, up from 74 schools just two years prior.

"We are acutely focused on increasing expectations for students to ensure they are prepared for success in college and the workplace," said Education Secretary Paul Reville. "Students must develop advanced skills in math in order to persist in higher education and compete for the jobs of the future."

"This new, higher standard will have a direct and very positive impact on college readiness and college graduation, which are two essential goals of the Vision Project, our new agenda for public higher education in Massachusetts," said Richard M. Freeland, Commissioner of Higher Education. "Today's vote by the Board will help all of us in public higher education reach our goal of producing the best educated citizenry and workforce in the nation."

Freeland added that the new admissions standard is also likely to help close persistent achievement gaps, a top priority of Governor Patrick for his second term in office. It should also improve postsecondary access for socio-economically disadvantaged students. African American and Latino students are only half as likely as their Asian and Caucasian peers to take higher-level math courses, research shows. In Massachusetts, a January 2007 survey found that approximately 80% of students in suburban and rural high schools are already completing the list of courses proposed in MassCore, which includes four years of mathematics, while just 46% of students in urban schools complete the list of MassCore courses.

The staff of the Department of Higher Education staff has worked with the staff of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and school superintendents' organizations to prepare for the additional requirement, Freeland said.

"There has been terrific collaboration between higher education and elementary/secondary to ensure that our students are prepared for success after high school," said Mitchell D. Chester, Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. "The move to the four year math requirement will promote greater post-secondary success as well as preparation for careers in science, technology, and engineering."

A groundbreaking national study (Adelman, 1999)) showed that students who took high-level mathematics courses were far more likely to complete their degrees than students who stopped taking math after completing Algebra II, even when they did not score in the highest quintiles of GPA, class rank or SAT score.

Massachusetts joins ten other states in requiring four years' of mathematics as part of their public college and university admissions standards (Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, Mississippi, South Carolina and West Virginia.)