8 th Grade NAEP Enrollment in Advanced Mathematics (Algebra

The “Algebra
for All”
A Progress Report
Tom Loveless
November 28, 2012
Outline of Talk
Trends in 8th Grade Algebra Enrollment
Previous Policy Research: Cause for Optimism
IV. Recent Policy Research: Cautionary Flags
My Own Study (2008)
VI. Implications for the Future
Note: Bibliography of all cited publications at the end of the presentation.
The Algebra for All Movement
Robert Moses calls algebra “The New Civil Right.” Uses McArthur Fellowship
money to start The Algebra Project, promoting algebra courses in middle
schools in underserved communities.
U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley urges, “Take algebra beginning in
the eighth grade and build from there.”
President Bill Clinton laments, “Around the world, middle students are
learning algebra and geometry. Here at home, just a quarter of all students
take algebra before high school.”
Minnesota makes 8th grade algebra a requirement for high school graduation
(beginning with the Class of 2015).
California adopts algebra test as 8th grade math assessment for NCLB
8th Grade NAEP
Enrollment in Advanced Mathematics
(Algebra, Geometry, Algebra II)
Note: Spaces indicate when response categories changed.
Source: NAEP Data Explorer
Previous Policy Research
Cause for Optimism
•Stevenson, Schiller, and Schneider (1994), Smith (1996),
Gamoran and Hannigan (2000).
•Analyzed large, national data sets (HSB or NELS).
•All found gains in math achievement for students taking
algebra earlier rather than later, including low performing
students taking algebra in 8th or 9th grade.
•Clear implications for equity. Algebra as a “gatekeeper”
course. Persistent, wide gaps in 8th grade algebra enrollment
among SES groups (race, ethnicity, class).
More Recent Research: Cautionary Flags
Liang, Heckman, Abedi What Do the California
Standards Test Results Reveal
About the Movement Toward
Eighth-Grade Algebra for All?
9th graders passing
General Math CST in
8th grade have 69%
better chance of
passing Algebra CST
than those who failed
Algebra CST in 8th
Clotfelter, Ladd, Vigdor The Aftermath of Accelerating
Algebra: Evidence from a
District Policy Initiative
Lower scores on Alg I
test and lower pass
rates in Geometry and
Alg II.
Taylor, Kurlaender, and Outcomes of Placing Low
Rose (2012)
Performing Eighth Grade
Students in Algebra Content
A large CA
Algebra reduces 8th
grade GPA by 7%
More Recent Research: Cautionary Flags
Williams, Haertel, Kirst,
Rosin, and Perry (2011)
Improving Middle Grade Math
Performance (and others from
“Placing all 8th graders
into Algebra I,
regardless of their
preparation, sets up
many students to fail.”
Allensworth, Nomi,
Montgomery, and Lee
College Preparatory Curriculum
for All: Academic Consequences
of Requiring Algebra and English I
for Ninth Graders in Chicago
“Although more
students completed
ninth grade with credits
in algebra and English I,
failure rates increased,
grades slightly declined,
test scores did not
improve, and students
were no more likely to
enter college.
Why the Difference?
“The contrast between these results and prior
correlational research reflects the severe selection
bias plaguing those previous studies. It is undeniable
that students who take algebra early tend to do
better in subsequent math courses, but this
correlation arises because it is usually the best
students who are selected to take algebra early.
Once this selection bias is eliminated, the remaining
causal effect of accelerating the conventional first
course of algebra into earlier grades, in the
absence of other changes in the math curriculum, is
for most students decidedly harmful.”
(Clotfelter, Ladd, and Vigdor, 2012, p. 12)
1. Algebra for All policies involve trade-offs: Access improves—more students
take Algebra—but achievement does not. Number of students passing
Algebra in 8th grade rises. And so does the number of students failing.
2. Double-dose Algebra as a possible support. Some encouraging findings
(Cortes, Goodman, Nomi, 2012) in Chicago, with both short and long term
positive results.
3. Better preparation. (Siegler et al, 2012): “Longitudinal data sets from the
United States and the United Kingdom revealed that elementary school
students’ knowledge of fractions and of division uniquely predicts those
students’ knowledge of algebra and overall mathematics achievement in
high school, 5 or 6 years later, even after statistically controlling for other types
of mathematical knowledge, general intellectual ability, working memory,
and family income and education (p. 691).”
Implications (cont.)
4. What will be the impact of the Common Core? Evers and Wurman oppose
CC in CA for not promoting Algebra for All in 8th grade.
5. Teachers—many middle school teachers are unprepared to teach algebra.
Clotfelter, Ladd, and Vigdor found that even the least effective teachers
were enlisted to teach algebra when CMS expanded access to the course.
One-third of CA algebra 8th grade teachers do not have math authorization.
D. L. Stevenson, Schiller K. S., & Schneider, B. (1994). Sequences of
Opportunities for Learning. Sociology of Education, 67, 184-198.
Elaine Allensworth, et al. (2009). College Preparatory Curriculum for All:
Academic Consequences of Requiring Algebra and English I for Ninth
Graders in Chicago. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis , 31, 367.
Gamoran, A. and Hannigan, E. (2000). Algebra for Everyone? Benefits of
College Preparatory Mathematics for Students with Diverse Abilities in
Early Secondary School. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis , 22,
Jian-Hua Liang, et al. (2012). What Do the California Standards Test Results
Reveal About the Movement Toward Eighth-Grade Algebra for All?
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis , 34 (3), 328-343.
Kriegler, S. and Lee, T. (2012). Using Standardized Test Data as Guidance
for Placement into 8th Grade Algebra. Retrieved from Department of
Mathematics, University of California, Los Angeles:
Loveless, T. (2008). “The Misplaced Math Student.,” 2008 Brown Center
Report on American Education. Washington, D.C.: Brookings.
Robert S. Siegler, et al. (2012). “Early Predictors of High School
Mathematics Achievement,” Psychological Sciences , 23 (7), 691-697.
Smith, J. (1996). Does an Extra Year Make Any Difference? The Impact of
Early Access to Algebra on Longterm Gains in Mathematics Achievement.
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis , 18, 141-153.
Spielhagen, F. R. (2006). Closing the Achievement Gap in Math: The LongTerm Effects of Eighth-Grade Algebra. Journal of Advanced Academics ,
18, 34-59.
T. Williams, et al. (2011a). Improving Middle Grades Math Performance: A
Closer Look at District and School Policies and Practices, Course
Placements, and Student Outcomes in California. Mountain View:
T. Williams, et al. (2011b). Preparation, Placement, Proficiency: Improving
Middle Grades Math Performance [Policy and Practice Brief]. Moutain
View: EdSource.
Taylor, D., Kurlaender, M., & Rose, H. (2012). Outcomes of Placing Low
Performing Eighth Grade Students in Algebra Content Courses. University
of California, Davis.

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