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Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness

In 2008, the California State Board of Education voted to require all students to enroll in algebra by 8th grade. This policy initiative, yet to be actually implemented, represents the culmination of a decades-long movement toward offering algebra instruction before the traditional high school years. Nationally, the proportion of 8th grade students enrolled in algebra doubled between 1988 and 2007 (Perie, Moran and Lutkus, 2005; Walston and McCarroll 2010), reaching rates over 50% in three states and the District of Columbia. The movement to offer algebra instruction before high school has been inspired in large part by correlational research documenting significant differences in later-life outcomes between those students who enroll in algebra by 8th grade and those who do not. But correlation need not imply causation, and it is unclear whether accelerated algebra enrollment--particularly when not accompanied by complementary curriculum reform in earlier grades--yields positive or negative effects (Loveless, 2008). This paper provides a quasi-experimental estimate of the causal impact of accelerating the introduction of algebra coursework. The research is based on explicit policy initiatives in two large North Carolina school districts in 2002/03 and it is supplemented with observations from eight additional large North Carolina Districts. Two tables and two figures are appended.

Descriptors: Algebra, Board of Education Policy, Required Courses, Middle Schools, Outcomes of Education, Quasiexperimental Design, School Districts, Grade 6, Grade 7, Grade 8, Grade 10, Grade 11, Grade 12, Scores, Achievement Tests, Mathematics Achievement, Student Records

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Autor: Clotfelter, Charles T.; Ladd, Helen F.; Vigdor, Jacob L.


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