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Last modified: 9/21/2013 4:17:04 AM
Research and Evaluation

Algebra I Course Taking among Middle Grades Students in PGCPS, SY2010-SY2012

 Erika D. Taylor, Ph.D. and Cecily Darden Adams


This study is the first of two investigations that will explore early Algebra I course-taking in Prince George's County Public Schools (PGCPS).  PGCPS is uniquely situated as one of the first school districts in the country to establish a universal early Algebra policy through the Equity 2000 partnership study.  The established PGCPS policy regarding early Algebra student identification and enrollment sets forth criteria for testing, identifying and enrolling students who are prepared to take Algebra I prior to 9th grade. The purpose of this study is to establish the characteristics of the students selected to take Algebra I in the middle grades in PGCPS and the context in which students take the course.  Data suggest an array of identification practices that did not align with the district policy including the use of the algebra placement assessment.  Instead, teachers reported MSA scores and course grades were used more frequently for student placement.  Compounding the potential misidentification, school district leadership has established ad hoc policies for increasing middle grade students' enrollment in Algebra I.  Similarly, PGCPS has wide variation in student enrollment in middle grades Algebra I courses by school and across enrollment cohorts.  While enrollment tends to be higher in higher performing schools, the pattern is not consistent.  Schools may respond to ad hoc policy efforts that influence changes in enrollment.  African American, Hispanic, FARMS, special education and ESOL students are consistently under-identified for early Algebra I.  Overall, PGCPS was at the forefront of universal Algebra I policy efforts and maintains an aggressive policy to identify and enroll prepared students in Algebra I courses.  While teacher perceptions are largely positive about student potential to perform well in Algebra I, many teachers  reported that  large proportions of their class enter Algebra I unprepared.  School-level variations in the identification policy and practice as well as variations in enrollment over time and by school may contribute to potentially misidentified students taking early Algebra I courses. 

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