Interests Served and Interests Converged: A Mixed-Methods Critical Policy Analysis of the California Math Placement Act
Date of Graduation
Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
School of Education
Organization & Leadership EdD
The California Mathematics Placement Act was created to eliminate bias within math placement and increase advanced math enrollment, particularly for subgroups who have been historically excluded. Using a Critical Race Theory lens, this study compared the stated goals of policy proponents with whose interests are actually served, and whose are not served, by the policy. This study used a mixed-methods research design to conduct a critical policy analysis of the California Math Placement Act. The qualitative portion of this study used archival document analysis to determine the origins of the act and the interests that converged to pass it. The quantitative portion of this study used Critical Race Quantitative Intersectionality principles to conduct two-proportion z-tests and chi-square tests that statistically analyzed math course offerings, advanced math eligibility and enrollment patterns, advanced math misplacement, and overall math outcomes in a large, unified school district in California before and after the implementation of the California Math Placement Act. The study focused on outcomes for Black students, Latinx students, and students from low-income families, since they were the imagined beneficiaries of the act. The findings of the archival document analysis suggest that the California Math Placement Act was created after technology companies received public critique for their workforce demographics that showed a significant lack of diversity, and that the act is a product of the converged interests of technology companies, nonprofit organizations who were affiliated with the technology companies, and lawmakers. However, the voices of current educators were missing from critical aspects of the final language of the California Math Placement Act, and the act does not address systemic barriers such as lack of resources and inequitable advanced math course offerings. The quantitative findings suggest that certain math outcomes improved overall for the focal district, however those improvements were not always present throughout the targeted populations. Furthermore, discrepancies arose throughout the focal district after the implementation of the act, and some inequalities in math access and outcomes widened over time. While aspects of the California Math Placement Act were aligned with the goals and missions of the organizations involved, the data suggests that it is a symbolic victory. Even after the act has been in effect for more than four years, those who have historically been excluded throughout the system of math education still do not have equal access to math opportunities.
Schuler, C. (2021). Interests Served and Interests Converged: A Mixed-Methods Critical Policy Analysis of the California Math Placement Act. Retrieved from https://repository.usfca.edu/diss/591