As Colleges Move To Do Away With The SAT In The Name Of Diversity, Detroit High School Valedictorian Struggles With Low-Level Math

  • The valedictorian of a Detroit high school is struggling with low-level math at Michigan State University, where 1 in 8 students were in remedial math.
  • Universities have loosened their requirements to attempt to increase graduation rates and diversity.
  • The University of California system may abolish the SAT and ACT as a requirement for entry, saying the standard screenings lead to “inequity” in student populations.

The valedictorian of a Detroit high school is reportedly struggling with basic math in college.

The development comes as colleges have increasingly rejected objective admissions criteria in the name of “equity,” with University of California poised to no longer require the SAT because of the racial impact it has on admissions.

“Marqell McClendon has struggled in the low-level math class she’s taking during her first semester at Michigan State University,” the news outlet Chalkbeat reported Nov. 15. McClendon, the valedictorian of her graduating class at Detroit’s Cody High School, was used to getting all A’s, but found herself asking strangers to help her with her college coursework, it said.

MSU has pushed for admitting more racial minorities in the name of diversity. Its “incoming freshman class is predicted to be the largest and most diverse in the school’s history, with more than 8,400 anticipated students,” the school stated in May 2018, noting that black enrollment was up 24%.

But nearly half of graduates from Detroit’s main school district must take remedial courses when they get to college, Chalkbeat reported.

In 2016, MSU removed the requirement that all students at least take algebra in either college or high school. Algebra is taught in eighth grade in many schools. Meanwhile, Wayne State University in Detroit dropped its general-education math requirement altogether.

Bob Murphy, the director or university relations and policy for the Michigan Association of State Universities, told Inside Higher Ed that not requiring math will ideally “lead to more successful graduation outcomes.”

Nearly 1,000 MSU students a year — or 1 in 8 freshmen — took a remedial class course called MTH 1825 that didn’t count toward a college degree and covered material students should have learned in high school, the Lansing State Journal reported in 2018.

It said MSU stopped offering that class and added MTH 103A and 103B, which spread out algebra over two semesters and count toward a degree. MSU said MTH 103 is “accessible to visual learners.”

Students who don’t want to take algebra can take “MTH 101 Quantitative Literacy I and MTH 102 Quantitative Literacy II” instead. The course website for MSU’s Math 101 discusses topics such as “Side-by-Side and Stacked Bar Graphs” and “percent change.”

McClendon, who could not be reached for comment, said she is majoring in biomedical laboratory science, which requires her to pass classes such as calculus, organic chemistry and advanced clinical chemistry. It will take her five years to complete the four-year program.

She’s scheduled office visits with her professor, gone to math learning centers and joined an intensive program of mostly students from “underrepresented communities,” Chalkbeat said.

“Sometimes when I’m in class and I’m learning, some things start to feel familiar from high school and I’m kind of like, ‘I learned this already but I don’t really understand it,’” she told Chalkbeat.

Believing she would fail, she asked a stranger in her dorm to help her for an hour and a half and got a B on her midterm.

The juxtaposition of her performance in high school and college suggests that GPAs are flawed when comparing college applicants from different high schools. The average SAT score at her high school was about 800 out of 1600.

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