Tyson, Will & Roksa, Josipa
How Schools Structure Opportunity: The Role of Curriculum and Placement in Math Attainment
University of South Florida, University of Virginia
- Is school math curriculum related to students’ course attainment net of placement into a particular course?
- Can less academically prepared students reach higher attainment than their more academically prepared peers by being placed into higher-level algebra 1 courses?
Journal Name or Institutional Affiliation:
Research in Social Stratification and Mobility
Vol. 44 pp. 123-135
Girls were more likely to reach algebra 2 than boys, but they were also less likely to reach pre-calculus. This pattern corroborates national reports showing that girls complete 9th grade with an attainment advantage over boys, but that advantage steadily declines as students’ advance through high school.
- Racial/ethnic minority students had higher math attainment than their white peers when accounting for test scores, placement, and algebra 1 grades. Black and Hispanic students had lower attainment overall mainly because they had lower test scores and grades than White students.
- Students were more likely to reach algebra 2 in schools with larger female and Hispanic populations. They were also more likely to take pre-calculus in majority-minority schools; however, overall math attainment was lower in low SES schools, a characteristic of many schools with high minority composition.
- Schools that offered only general and honors courses eliminated the risk of negative effects of taking remedial courses and offered the positive effects of taking honors. Low preparation students’ in these schools were better able to overcome the association between low test scores and low attainment.
- Students in general/honors schools are most likely to reach algebra 2, and students placed in honors courses have an advantage in reaching pre-calculus. Untracked schools on the other hand lead to more egalitarian outcomes. Students in untracked curricular contexts were better off than their peers in other curricular contexts who did not get to take honors.
- The consequences of placement into less rigorous math courses were very difficult to overcome, even accounting for eighth grade test scores and ninth grade achievement.
Journal Article Empirical Research
Academic Achievement, Instruction, Math, Racial Composition, SES Composition, Sex Composition
Method of Analysis:
Multinomial Logistic Regression
Unit of Analysis:
The authors use student transcript data from the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) PK-20 Education Data Warehouse (EDW). The analytic sample includes 9th graders who had taken the state administered 8th grade standardized math test, took an algebra 1 course and reaches the 12th grade n = 355,087 or 80% of all 9th grade algebra 1 students.
- Math attainment- the highest math taken through the 12th grade (the authors collapsed algebra 1 and geometry into one category and used multilevel multinomial logit models to estimate the likelihood of students completing (1) algebra 1 or geometry, (2) algebra 2, (3) advanced math, (4) pre-calculus or calculus as their highest math).
- Placement (The last algebra 1 course taken in the 9th grade), curriculum the combination of algebra 1 courses offered in the school ( there are three levels of course offerings remedial, general and honors, (1) Fully tracked schools offer classes on all three level, (2) general/honors offer classes on two levels(general and honors), and (3) remedial/General schools do not offer honors, instead only offering remedial and general courses.), math preparation is measured by students’ performance on the math portion of the Florida comprehensive assessment test (FCAT) in the 8th grade. the authors assigned each student an achievement score, and combined them into three achievement categories, low preparation (levels 1 and 2), average preparation (level 3) and high preparation (levels 4 and 5).
- Controls: gender, race, eligibility for free or reduced price lunch, and designation as limited English proficiency, percent female students, percent of students in each ethnic/race category, percentage of students eligible for free and reduced priced lunch, school type.