Monday, July 1, 2013

High Poverty Does Not Always Mean Low Algebra Scores

The map shows the relationship between the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches and Algebra I scores in Missouri school districts. The dark-shaded areas are those in which a higher percentage of students receiving such lunches is associated with lower end-of-course algebra scores. This statistically significant relationship is not found in lighter-shaded areas. Districts in white generally are elementary-only and have no Algebra I data.

Where a child lives makes a difference in how demographics and other factors influence algebra performance, and policies should take into account local variation, research from Washington University in St. Louis suggests.

“Place, Poverty and Algebra: A Statewide Comparative Spatial Analysis of Variable Relationships" by William Tate, PhD, chair of the Department of Education and the Edward Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor in Arts & Sciences, and Mark Hogrebe, PhD, an institutional researcher in the department, was published in the Journal of Mathematics Education at Teachers College (Columbia University).

Algebra was a logical subject to study, Tate said, because in American schools, it’s often viewed as a gateway course. That is, students who perform well in it are able to progress to higher-level math courses that often are necessary for a host of college courses and career fields, while students who can’t master it are foreclosed from such opportunities. Also, in Missouri at least, students take a statewide assessment exam, providing large amounts of comparable data.

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