Date of Award

Winter 12-18-2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Executive Ed.D. in Education Leadership Management and Policy

Department

Education Leadership, Management and Policy

Advisor

Martin J. Finkelstein, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Gerard Babo, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Sharon Amato, Ed.D.

Keywords

PARCC, Algebra, Geometry, Acceleration, Tracking

Abstract

The traditional sequencing of the ninth- to twelfth-grade math curriculum in the United States has students taking Algebra 1 in the ninth grade, Geometry in the tenth grade, Algebra 2 in the eleventh grade and an optional advanced math course (e.g. pre-calculus, statistics) in the twelfth grade. In this traditional setup, talented math students are given the opportunity to take Algebra 1 in the eighth grade, which allows them to take two or more years of advanced math before graduating from high school. In an effort to create more equitable access to advanced math courses, many districts are considering or have implemented policies that encourage or require more students to take Algebra 1 in the eighth grade. This study examines one such policy in the Fort Lee Public School district, which implemented mandatory enrollment in Algebra 1 for all regular-education, eighth-grade students in the 2015–2016 school year. The study examines two cohorts of students: the 2015–2016 eighth graders who were the first to experience compulsory enrollment in Algebra 1 in the eighth grade and the 2014–2015 eighth graders who were the last group of students to enroll in the traditional math sequence, and who therefore did not take Algebra 1 until the ninth grade. Two primary research questions guided the study in examining how the policy affected students’ performance in Algebra 1 and how the policy affected their performance in Geometry. Several sub-questions addressed specific demographic groups, including black and Hispanic students, economically disadvantaged students, and males and females. Course performance was measured using students’ scale scores on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) course assessment for Algebra 1 and Geometry. A hierarchical regression analysis was run on the cohorts and subgroups in order to identify the effect of the policy when controlling for other exogenous variables including attendance, prior performance, race, socioeconomic status and gender. The results of the study revealed that exposure to the policy had a minimal effect on the cohorts as a whole and no effect on the majority of subgroups included, indicating that students had been successfully accelerated through the curriculum without undermining their mastery of foundational coursework. This research can inform policymakers’ decisions with regard to a policy requiring that all eighth-grade students take Algebra.

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