How does taking Algebra 1 by 8th Grade effect Students' High School Science Course-taking Patterns?

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Virginia Tech


The objective of this study is to examine the impact of students accessing Algebra 1 in the 8th grade on their science course-taking patterns in high school in a large district in the Mid Atlantic of the United States. This is an important question because many studies have shown that Algebra 1 is a "gatekeeper" course (Adelman, 1999, 2006) but there has not been much research around the impact of who has taken Algebra 1 by 8th grade and what science courses they took as a result of having access to that particular course (Xin Ma, 2009). The data will be supplied by the school district of the last two cohorts of graduating seniors who were in the district from the seventh grade on, so the analysis can be conducted on those who were subject to the same opportunities and policies. The demographic information that will be requested are: Free/Reduced Meal students (FRMS) as a proxy for socio-economic status (SES), gender, race, English as a Second Language (ESOL) level, Special Education (SPED), what grade the students took Algebra, and the science classes they took while they were in high school. The research questions will be analyzed using JMP, a statistics program supplied by Virginia Tech to see if there are any significant differences in which groups of students took Algebra 1 by 8th grade and what kinds of science courses they took. The major findings were that more White and Asian students, and higher SES students accessed Algebra 1 by 8th grade and were enrolled in more rigorous science classes in their high school career than their Black, Hispanic, low SES, Special Education or English Language peers. The results of this study could inform large school districts about the impact of Algebra 1 by 8th grade on students' science course-taking patterns and promote conversations about their policies they create about access to critical courses.



High School science course taking patterns, Algebra 1, equity, high school transcript study