Monday, August 20, 2012

Eighth-Grade Algebra for All?

What Do the California Standards Test Results Reveal About the Movement Toward Eighth-Grade Algebra for All?

In California, an increasing number of 8th graders have taken algebra courses since 2003. This study examines students’ California Standards Test (CST) results in grades 7 through 11, aiming to reveal who took the CST for Algebra I in 8th grade and whether the increase has led to a rise in students’ taking higher-level mathematics CSTs and an improved performance in following years. Results show that the pipeline of 8th-grade algebra and following years’ higher-level mathematics CSTs has a significant leak in it. Furthermore, the longitudinal analysis reveals that 9th-grade students have a 69% greater chance of succeeding in algebra if they passed the CST for General Mathematics in 8th grade compared to those who failed the CST for Algebra I.

The Unintended Consequences of an Algebra-for-All Policy on High-Skill Students: Effects on Instructional Organization and Students’ Academic Outcomes

In 1997, Chicago implemented a policy that required algebra for all ninth-grade students, eliminating all remedial coursework. This policy increased opportunities to take algebra for low-skill students who had previously enrolled in remedial math. However, little is known about how schools respond to the policy in terms of organizing math classrooms to accommodate curricular changes. The policy unintentionally affected high-skill students who were not targeted by the policy—those who would enroll in algebra in its absence. Using an interrupted time-series design combined with within-cohort comparisons, this study shows that schools created more mixed-ability classrooms when eliminating remedial math classes, and peer skill levels declined for high-skill students. Consequently, their test scores also declined.

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