Eighth-grade access to Algebra I - National Research Center on

Eighth Grade Access to Algebra I:
A Study of Virtual Algebra
Peggy Clements, Education Development Center, Inc.
With study team members
Jessica Heppen & Teresa Duncan (AIR),
Cheryl Tobey & Katherine Culp (EDC)
Regional Educational Laboratory
Northeast and Islands (REL-NEI)
Why a Study of Online Algebra I
for Eighth Graders?
• Why Focus on Algebra I in 8th Grade?
– Student achievement in mathematics a
national and regional concern
– Policymakers advocate “pushing down”
Algebra I to 8th Grade because
• Algebra I is a gatekeeper course
• Taking Algebra I in 8th grade places students
on a trajectory toward advanced mathematics
and science course sequences
Why a Study of Online Algebra I
for Eighth Graders?
• Why study an online course?
– Access to Algebra I in 8th grade is not widespread and
online delivery may be an effective way of broadening
• Offering Algebra I is especially difficult for rural schools
– Use of online courses in K-12 settings is growing
– 40,000 to 50,000 students in 2001-02
– 520,000 students in 2004-2005 (McLeod et al, 2005)
– Over 1 million students in 2007-2008 (Picciano & Seaman, 2009)
– Need for rigorous research to establish effectiveness
Eighth Grade Access to Algebra I
• Designed to determine the impact of offering
Algebra I through an online course to 8th
graders who would not otherwise have
access to the course
– Not a comparison of online versus a traditional
course, but whether offering an online Algebra I
course is beneficial in schools where Algebra I is
not currently offered to 8th grade students
• Student outcomes include short- and longterm measures of math achievement
Context for the Study
• Schools in Maine & Vermont that serve 8th
graders and do not typically offer a full
Algebra I course to 8th grade students
• Most schools are rural, some located in very
remote locations
– 70 schools (50 in Maine, 20 in Vermont)
– Average number of 8th graders per school: 29.7
• Range: 1 to 146 8th graders
• Half of the schools are very small (serve 16 or fewer 8th
Context for the Study
• Primary focus on “algebra-ready” (AR) 8th
– On average schools identified 23% of their 8th
grade cohort as “ready” to take algebra
– Does online Algebra I benefit these students?
• Secondary focus on non-“algebra-ready” (NAR) 8th graders
– Does offering Algebra I online to AR students
have any unintended consequences for N-AR
students, who remain in the regular math class?
Policy Question
This study is designed to generate policy-relevant evidence
to answer the question:
 In schools that do not typically offer Algebra I to eighth
graders, is it beneficial to offer Algebra as an online
~ Where “benefit” is assessed in terms of student achievement in
mathematics and subsequent high school course-taking, and the
delivery of Algebra I online is to 8th graders considered “AR” by their
Primary Research Questions
What is the impact of offering Algebra I online to AR
students on their
end-of-8th grade algebra achievement?
subsequent high school course-taking?
~ The direct impacts on AR students are of primary concern for
assessing whether this intervention is an effective way for
schools to broaden access.
Secondary Research Questions
What is the impact of offering Algebra I online (to
AR students) on
N-AR students’ mathematics achievement (algebra
and general mathematics)?
N-AR students’ subsequent high school coursetaking?
AR students’ general mathematics achievement?
~ The indirect impacts on N-AR students are of secondary concern
for assessing whether there are an unintended consequences
of using this intervention to broaden access.
Research Design
• Randomized Control Trial (RCT)
– Schools randomly assigned to treatment or control
• Treatment – school receives online Algebra I course for
their AR students during SY2008-2009
• Control – school conducts “business as usual” during
– All schools identified their AR students prior to
random assignment
Treatment versus Control
School Year 2008-2009
Algebra I
Business as usual –
8th Grade Math
Student Outcome Measures
• Mathematics achievement
– Mastery of algebraic concepts test – end of 8th grade
– General mathematics achievement test – end of 8th
• High School Course-taking
– High school mathematics and science course-taking
(AR students only)
Implementation of Intervention
Algebra I Course
Structured lessons and activities- presentations,
practice exercises and written assignments
However, over the course of the year students were
expected to complete the entire course
Asynchronous (anytime, any place: students do not
need to be online at the same time as the teacher)
Online teacher
On-site proctor to monitor students taking the online
Implementation of Intervention
Online Teacher
• Responsible for instruction through online
courseware and communication tools
• Grades assignments and assessments
• Answers questions through discussion boards and
internal messaging system
• Communicates with students and onsite proctors by
reading and responding to messages
Implementation of Intervention
School-Based Proctor
• Supervises students during the class period
• Provides a supportive and structured working
• Provides the link between the online teacher, the
student, local school officials, and parents as
necessary (acts as the eyes and ears of the online
Algebra I Course Implementation
• 35 Schools Received the Intervention
School-Based Implementation Decisions
• Identifying Algebra Ready Students
• School-Based Proctor
- 8th Grade Math Teachers
- Other classroom teachers
- Principals
- Gifted & Talented Teachers
- Educational Technicians
- Technology Teachers
School-Based Implementation Decisions
• Classroom Location
– Classroom
• 8th grade math class monitored by
teacher who was simultaneously
teaching regular 8th grade math course
– Instructional space
• proctored by staff assuming other
responsibilities (e.g. GT, Principal,
Computer Lab)
• proctored by Educational Technicians
Reporting of Results
• Final report scheduled for winter 2010/2011
• Conclusion of whether intervention is
“effective” based on combination of results:
• Positive impacts on AR students’ algebra scores
or the likelihood that they go on to participate in
advanced course sequences
• Non-negative impacts on AR students’ general
mathematics scores
• Non-negative impacts on achievement and
course-taking outcomes for N-AR students
For more information
• http://relnei.org
• or email me: [email protected]
Thank you!
Content and Structure
of the Online Course
• Two “semesters”
– Algebra IA
– Algebra 1B
• The course is divided into units and lessons
Lessons- Learning the Content
Interactive Textbook
Lessons- Learning The Content
Text with Audio Support
Lessons- Learning The Content
Text with Chalkboards
Lessons- Learning The Content
Mini Lessons – “Chalk talks”
Practice Exercises
Interactive Applets
Guiding Questions- Applets
Open Ended Prompts
Quizzes and Tests (Password Protected)
Analytic Approach
• Two-level hierarchical linear models (HLMs) with
students as Level 1 and schools as Level 2
• Basic model will capture difference in student
outcomes between intervention and control schools,
controlling for pretest scores, student characteristics,
and school characteristics
• Primary analyses will estimate the impact of the
intervention on AR student outcomes
• Secondary analyses will estimate the impact on N-AR
student outcomes

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