Student Outcomes

High School Algebra I for Middle Grade Students studies

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Background on Student Assessments

CPS students historically have taken their first year of algebra (Algebra I) in the ninth grade. As discussed earlier, the CMSI sought to increase the number of students who take a high school level algebra course in the middle grades. High School Algebra I for Middle Grade Students refers to the district-approved and managed Algebra I course taught to students in middle grades (usually eighth grade). These courses are intended to offer the same content as High School Algebra and to prepare students for the next level of high school math, usually Geometry. At the successful completion of this course, students take the citywide, Algebra Exit Exam cite.  Exam results are one factor (in addition to grades) in determining placement in higher-level mathematics courses in high school.

A series of analyses were conducted on the high school outcomes of students who took the Algebra Exit Exam. Students were included in this study if they were in Chicago Public Schools in both 8th grade in 2006-07 and in 9th grade in 2007-08. A file of these students was created by combining master files (with enrollment and demographic data), the Algebra Exit Exam file (with test outcomes and teacher data), 9th grade EXPLORE cite. scores, 7th grade ISAT scores, and 9th grade course enrollments and grades. For the purposes of this study, the researchers simplified the ninth grade mathematics course types to five options, as shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Course Categoriescite.

Course Title Course Numbers New Category
Two Period Algebra
Algebra Problem Solving
409 or 4132 or 4482
420 or 421
423 or 433 or 4131R or 4481R
Honors Algebra 453 or 4131H or 4481H Honors Algebra
Geometry 424 or 434 or 4971R or 4981R Geometry
Honors Geometry 454 or 4971H Honors Geometry
No Title Between 400 and 499, but not one of the above Other
Other Title

Using the course files the researchers also calculated a mathematics GPA for each semester cite.

Researchers computed:

  • Means and frequencies on demographic information (Free/Reduced-Price Lunch (FRPL), Limited English Proficiency, Individualized Educational Program, type of school, ethnicity, and gender),
  • Teacher characteristics (certifications, years of teaching and highest educational attainment),
  • Ninth grade outcomes (enrollment and grades in math courses, EXPLORE scores, and course absences), and
  • Prior academic achievement (7th grade ISAT scores).
Researchers also examined each of these variables by the student's participation in 8th grade Algebra as well as by their performance on the High School Algebra I for Middle Grade Students assessment (Exit Exam) and applied appropriate statistical tests (e.g., t-tests and chi-squares) to test for statistical differences between groups.

Finally, the researchers built models predicting the ninth-grade outcomes (mathematics course passing rates, course grades and EXPLORE scale scores) using participation in the High School Algebra I for Middle Grade Students assessment. These models compare students who took the Algebra Exit Exam to those who did not take the test and incorporated common statistical controls as described in the bullet points above.

The researchers modeled the impact of Proficiency alone on the ninth grade outcomes. In other words, they examined the difference between Proficient (defined as those that met the passing cutoff score on Algebra Exit Exam) and non-Proficient students, excluding those who did not take the assessment. To these models the following teacher qualification controls were added:

  • Type 9 Certification (type9),
  • Number of years teaching (yrs),
  • Master's degree (masters)

The Type 9 certification in Illinois refers to teachers who are certified to teach high school level mathematics, as opposed to the Type 3 certification, which permits teaching elementary school level mathematics in Illinois. If a teacher had both types of certifications, the Type 9 was counted.

After considering the outcomes of these models, the researchers examined whether interaction effects should be included and found several significant effects. The relationship between participation and EXPLORE scores, for example, was more extreme for FRPL than for non-FRPL students (high versus low income students) and thus the researchers incorporated these interaction effects into the full statistical models.

From these studies the following findings emerged:

Participation Effects

Proficiency Effects

To summarize, students who took the High School Algebra I for Middle Grade Students course had higher grades in ninth grade mathematics and performed better on the EXPLORE mathematics assessment than their similar peers who had not taken algebra in elementary school. The improvements were greatest for those students who were lower-performing as measured by their 7th grade ISAT scores, prior to enrolling in Algebra in the 8th grade.

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Starting in the 2007-08 school year, students taking High School Algebra I for Middle Grade Students were required to take this assessment at the end of the course.
EXPLORE is the standardized assessment given in the district in October of the ninth grade year. It is a nationally-normed assessment produced by ACT.
Where 3-digit course codes are listed, all sub-codes to these were included.
Using a 4-point unweighted scale, so 4.0 is an A, 1.0 is a D and 0.0 is an F.