Cortes, Kalena, Joshua Goodman, and Takako Nomi. "Intensive Math Instruction and Educational Attainment: Long-Run Impacts of Double-Dose Algebra." HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP13-009, April 2013.
Success or failure in freshman math has long been thought to have a strong impact on subsequent high school outcomes. We study an intensive math instruction policy in which students scoring below average on an 8th grade exam were assigned in 9th grade to an algebra course that doubled instructional time, altered peer composition and emphasized problem solving skills. Using a regression discontinuity design, we show positive and substantial longrun impacts of double-dose algebra on standardized test scores, high school graduation rates and college enrollment rates. The attainment effects were larger than the test score effects would predict, highlighting the importance of evaluating educational interventions on longerrun outcomes. Perhaps because the intervention focused on verbal exposition of mathematical concepts, the intervention’s impact was generated largely by students with below average reading skills, highlighting the importance of targeting interventions towards appropriately skilled students. This is the first evidence we know of demonstrating the long-run impacts of such intensive math instruction.