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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Outcomes of Placing Low Performing Eighth Grade Students in Algebra Content Courses
by Taylor, Donald Joseph, Ed.D., University of California, Davis, 2011, 124; 3474480
Abstract (Summary)

In California, Algebra I is the 8th grade math content standard. The United States Department of Education found the annual 8th grade General Math California Standards Test to be out of compliance with the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 since it assesses 6th and 7th grade math standards and not Algebra I math content. In response to the federal citation, the California State Board of Education passed an 8th grade math policy that requires all students to take the Algebra California Standards Test, thereby mandating Algebra I math content for all 8th grade students. This study seeks to understand what impact this policy may have on math performance among the lowest performing math students. I analyze administrative data from three cohorts of students that attended a large, diverse, urban California school district from the 7th to 9th grade during the 2001-2002 to 2005-2006 school years. Employing a series of descriptive analyses I compare those students in the lower tenth percentile on the 7 th grade math California Standards Test to those in the upper ninetieth percentile by key characteristics and math course types. I then track these students from the 7th to the 9th grade to determine linked math course promotional patterns over time. Selecting only those students that performed in the lower tenth percentile on the 7th grade math California Standards Test, students are classified by their 8 th grade General Math Only and Algebra Only math course placements. I employ Ordinary Least Squares regression to determine the relationship between math course type and students’ 8th grade General Math California Standards Test and math-specific GPA outcomes. Among the lowest performing math students, the General Math California Standards Test is assigned to 99.4% of students. Hispanics, African Americans, Special Education, English Language Learners lower SES students and male students are more likely to fall in this group. Math course placement appears to be policy-driven toward placement in algebra content courses rather than driven by the student’s math skills. Any algebra course content increases the likelihood of repeating the math course level. As the algebra course content becomes more rigorous, on average, the likelihood of repeating the math course level increases. Eighth grade math course placement does predict General Math California Standards Test scores, however the effect is mediated when controlling for other factors and disappears when accounting for school differences. Eighth grade algebra course placement is statistically significantly negatively related ( p < .01) to 8th grade math-specific GPA. The predicted negative relationship is approximately equivalent to reducing the student’s math-specific GPA from a C to a C-, or about eight percent. Although placement in algebra courses as soon as possible may remain a goal to ensure that students are not tracked out of college placement, students should be allowed to take general math courses to improve math skills and improve their math grade outcomes. Districts and schools should not be penalized in their API calculation if their 8th grade students take the General Math CST. Such a policy incentivizes a lack of differentiated math content and so does not accommodate the math skills of the lowest performing students. Repeating algebra courses should not be judged as failure. Lengthening algebra content courses over several years may be appropriate for some low performing students since repeated exposure may have the effect of improving their long-term math competence.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kurlaender, Michal
Commitee: Porter, Paul, Rose, Heather
School: University of California, Davis
Department: Educational Leadership
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 73/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Mathematics education, Secondary education, Curriculum development
Keywords: Algebra, Eighth grade, Low performing students, Math course, Math performance, Outcomes
Publication Number: 3474480
ISBN: 978-1-124-90859-5
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