With the nation’s test scores in the tank, student achievement in core subjects like reading and math is top of mind for educators and parents alike. States have taken wildly different approaches to fostering excellence in math, and one state—Texas—has bucked conventional wisdom to the benefit of its students. Others have embraced policies that destroy educational quality and leave every student behind.

A new state law requires public schools to automatically enroll sixth graders in advanced math courses if they score in the top 40% in math on a state standardized test in fifth grade. Course placement, however, is not solely determined by test scores; schools may also look at a student’s previous math coursework or class ranking to place them in higher-level math. Families may opt out their child if they feel he or she isn’t ready for the advanced course.

While “advanced” is a relative descriptor, and Texas still contends with the 39% 4th-grade math proficiency rate on its 2022 NAEP results, teaching to a higher level and expecting higher performance seems like a good place to start.

This sorting method has led to increased enrollment in advanced math courses across the board, but the gains are particularly striking for minority students. Dallas schools now have more than double the number of black sixth graders in advanced math than they did the year before, and nearly double the number of Latino students than before the law was enacted.

These gains for minority students were achieved by going against everything the teacher unions and progressive Left recommend for “equity.” Teacher unions and the progressive Left loathe standardized testing, in no small part because it tends to expose the failure of the education system they are running. But standardized tests are important because they are the closest thing we have to an objective measure of student achievement. It is this measurement that led to more minority students being assigned to advanced math courses.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh Public Schools is spending $50,000 to train its math teachers on “anti-racist” instruction. The initiative is based on feelings over facts, and politics over achievement. The district’s Assistant Superintendent Shawn McNeil said, “We don’t just emphasize the right or wrong answer, we emphasize the journey.” California has a new math framework that proudly focuses on “equity,” lowering standards and cutting off opportunities for kids to excel in math.

It is past time for education leaders to abandon what George W. Bush called “the soft bigotry of lowered expectations” and instead pursue higher achievement levels for all students.