Monday, December 31, 2012

Algebra for 8th graders: Negative effects among students in the bottom 60%

This paper examines the effects of policies that increase the number of students who take the first course in algebra in 8th grade, rather than waiting until 9th grade. Extending previous research that focused on the Charlotte-Mecklenberg school system, The authors use data for the 10 largest districts in North Carolina. The authors identify the effects of accelerating the timetable for taking algebra by using data on multiple cohorts grouped by decile of prior achievement and exploiting the fact that policy-induced shifts in the timing of algebra occur at different times in different districts to different deciles of students. The expanded data make it possible to examine heterogeneity across students in the effect of taking algebra early.

The authors find negative effects among students in the bottom 60% of the prior achievement distribution. In addition, the authors find other sources of heterogeneity in effects.

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