Early Math Coursework and College Readiness: Evidence from Targeted Middle School Math Acceleration

52 Pages Posted: 22 Sep 2015

See all articles by Shaun Dougherty

Shaun Dougherty

University of Connecticut - Neag School of Education

Joshua Goodman

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Darryl Hill

Wake County Public School System

Erica Litke

Harvard University - Harvard Graduate School of Education

Lindsay C. Page

University of Pittsburgh School of Education

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: August 3, 2015

Abstract

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. We study 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.

Keywords: Primary Education, Achievement Gaps, Coursework, Inequality

Suggested Citation

Dougherty, Shaun and Goodman, Joshua and Hill, Darryl and Litke, Erica and Page, Lindsay C., Early Math Coursework and College Readiness: Evidence from Targeted Middle School Math Acceleration (August 3, 2015). HKS Working Paper No. 15-044. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2662160 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2662160

Shaun Dougherty

University of Connecticut - Neag School of Education ( email )

CT
United States

Joshua Goodman (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.hks.harvard.edu/about/faculty-staff-directory/joshua-goodman/

Darryl Hill

Wake County Public School System ( email )

5625 Dillard Drive
Cary, NC 27518
United States

Erica Litke

Harvard University - Harvard Graduate School of Education ( email )

6 Appian Way
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Lindsay C. Page

University of Pittsburgh School of Education ( email )

135 N Bellefield Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States
412-648-7166 (Phone)

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