“We wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t have a math standard and have people live up to it”

Two years after Mishelle Kennedy finished her classes at Wayne State University, she still can’t get her degree.
The Royal Oak Township resident is being held up because she can’t pass a math test – a requirement that administrators say is at the level of high school math.
While 1,970 students graduated last weekend from WSU, an estimated 1,500 others couldn’t because they are in the same bind as Kennedy.
The situation is the result of math placement policies that changed five years ago, but are still impacting students today as WSU works to help these students graduate.
For Kennedy, 43, the lack of a degree means she can’t further her career as a state social worker and possibly earn up to $10,000 more annually to support her four children.
“I can count my money, I can take 33 percent off of a dress on sale at Macy’s. Why do I need algebra?” said Kennedy, who is taking the test again in January.  “Give me math that I would use as a social worker. It is so unfair.”
Howard Shapiro, associate vice president for student services and undergraduate affairs, said his heart goes out to students like Kennedy who are unable to graduate because they can’t pass the math test.
He is proud of the university’s high math standards, saying they teach students to think critically.  “We wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t have a math standard and have people live up to it,” Shapiro said.  “We should be more subject to criticism if we don’t get people to do math at a reasonable college level.”
The subject of scores of national reports, math is widely regarded as necessary in technology, business, finance and health and critical to global competition.
Before a recent test, many students expressed anxiety because they had taken the test before.  It has  become a big frustration to many traditional students.
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