To better prepare students for college-level math and the demands of the
labor market, school systems have tried to increase the rigor of students' math
coursework. The failure of universal "Algebra for All" models
has led recently to more targeted approaches.

This study involves one such approach
in Wake County, North Carolina, which began using prior test scores to assign
middle school students to an accelerated math track culminating in eighth grade
algebra. The policy has reduced the role that income and race played in
course assignment.

A regression discontinuity design exploiting the
eligibility threshold shows that acceleration has no clear effect on test
scores but lowers middle school course grades.

Acceleration does,
however, raise the probability of taking and passing geometry in ninth grade by
over 30 percentage points, including for black and Hispanic students.

Nonetheless, most students accelerated in
middle school do not remain so by high school and those that do earn low grades
in advanced courses. This leaky pipeline suggests that targeted math acceleration
has potential to increase college readiness among disadvantaged populations but
that acceleration alone is insufficient to keep most students on such a track.

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