One increasingly popular approach to improving students’ math skills is “algebra for all,” which encourages more students to take algebra and at earlier ages. The best study of this approach, using evidence from Charlotte, North Carolina (see “Solving America’s Math Problem,” features, Winter 2013), shows that pushing students into course work for which they are ill prepared actually harms their subsequent academic achievement. A potentially promising alternative, and one we focus on here, is “double-dose” algebra, in which struggling students are given twice as much instructional time as they would normally receive. The best study of this approach, by Takako Nomi and Elaine Allensworth, examined the short-term impact of such a policy in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), where double-dose algebra was implemented in 2003. Under that policy, students scoring below the national median on the 8th-grade math exam were required to take two periods of algebra a day during 9th grade instead of one, with the second class providing support and extra practice. Students placed in the extra classes thus received substantially more algebra instruction than other students. Nomi and Allensworth reported no improvement in 9th-grade algebra failure rates as a result of this intervention, a disappointing result for CPS. The time frame of their study did not, however, allow them to explore longer-run outcomes of even greater importance to students, parents, and policymakers. Our study extends this work to examine the impact of CPS’s double-dose algebra policy on such longer-run outcomes as advanced math course work and performance, ACT scores, high-school graduation rates, and college enrollment rates. Using data that track students from 8th grade through college enrollment, we analyze the effect of this innovative policy by comparing the outcomes for students just above and just below the double-dose threshold.
Cortes, Kalena, Takako Nomi, and Joshua Goodman. "A Double Dose of Algebra." Education Next 13.1 (Winter 2013).