Author: Tyson, Will & Roksa, Josipa

Title: How Schools Structure Opportunity: The Role of Curriculum and Placement in Math Attainment

University Affiliation: University of South Florida, University of Virginia


Research Question:

  1. Is school math curriculum related to students’ course attainment net of placement into a particular course?
  2. Can less academically prepared students reach higher attainment than their more academically prepared peers by being placed into higher-level algebra 1 courses?

Published: Yes

Journal Name or Institutional Affiliation: Research in Social Stratification and Mobility

Journal Entry: Vol. 44 pp. 123-135

Year: 2016


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Scholarship Type Journal Article Empirical Research

Keywords: Academic Achievement, Instruction, Math, Racial Composition, SES Composition, Sex Composition

Regions South

Methodologies: Quantitative

Research Designs: Secondary Data

Method of Analysis: Multinomial Logistic Regression

Sampling Frame: 9th graders

Sample Types: Population

Unit of Analysis: Student

Data Types: Quantitative-Longitudinal

Data Description:


Entry Created at: 2016-07-14 10:39:08 UTC
Last Update: 2016-08-01 16:10:56 UTC