Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Who Repeats Algebra I and How Does Performance Improve the Second Time?

Many high school students repeat algebra I, but few studies have examined students’ performance when they repeat the course.

Developed in collaboration with the Silicon Valley Research Alliance, this REL West study examined how many students repeat algebra I, how student characteristics relate to the likelihood of repeating, and how well students perform when they repeat the course.

Using six years of data from a cohort of 3,400 first-time seventh grade students in a California school district, authors found that 44 percent of students repeated algebra I.  Of the students who repeated the course, 22 percent had achieved proficiency on the end-of-course standardized assessment.

 Overall, student performance improved on average by approximately one-half of a letter grade and a little less than one-third of a performance level on the CST when students repeated the course. But when the data was disaggregated based on initial performance in the class, higher-achieving students experienced variation in improvement levels. Repeating students who initially received average course grades of at least a “C” in Algebra I earned higher CST scores but lower course grades on average when they repeated the course. Students who initially scored Proficient on the Algebra I CST experienced increases in course grades but declines in CST scores on average when they repeated the course.

Overall, researchers found that performance improved when students repeated algebra I. However, when researchers looked at the data separately for lower and higher performing students during their first taking of the algebra I course, the findings were not as consistent:
  • Low-performing students who repeated the source tended to improve on academic measures.
  • Higher-performing students who repeated the course improved on some measures but performed worse on others. For instance, students who initially received average course grades of at least a “C” scored higher on the end-of-course standardized test after repeating the course but had lower course grades on average the second time around.

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