Opening a Gateway to College Access: Algebra at the Right Time

By Jason Snipes, Neal Finkelstein

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Description

Four years of math in high school, with a strong foundation in algebra that builds from middle school, is key to higher education access. Therefore, ensuring that middle and high school students succeed in math — and in algebra in particular — is an important issue for policy and practice.

This research brief examines three recent Regional Educational Laboratory West (REL West) studies that shed important light on policies and practices that affect student success in algebra and preparation for higher-level math courses.

Some Key Findings

  • Middle school students who repeat algebra after initially failing the course have relatively low chances for becoming proficient in algebra
  • The proportions of students who fail algebra and have to repeat the course are even higher among vulnerable populations, including low-income students, Hispanic students, and English language learners
  • Students must score well above the thresholds for proficiency in prior math courses in order to have even a 50-50 chance of success when placed into algebra

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