Who Repeats Algebra I, and How Does Initial Performance Relate to Improvement When the Course Is Repeated?

By Tony Fong, Karina Jaquet, Neal Finkelstein

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Description

This Regional Educational Laboratory West (REL West) study explores the prevalence of students repeating Algebra I, who is most likely to repeat the course, and the level of improvement for students who repeat.

REL West researchers conducted the study based on six years of data from a cohort of 3,400 seventh grade students in a California school district.

Key Findings

  • Forty-four percent of the students repeated Algebra I
  • Overall, student performance improved on average by approximately one half of a letter grade and a little less than one third of a performance level on the California Standards Test (CST) when students repeated Algebra I
  • When the data were disaggregated based on initial performance in the class, higher-achieving students experienced variation in improvement levels
  • Repeating students who initially received average course grades of at least a “C” in Algebra I earned higher CST scores but lower course grades on average when they repeated the course
  • Students who initially scored Proficient on the Algebra I CST experienced increases in course grades but declines in CST scores on average when they repeated the course

Overall, these findings show that lower-performing students are likely to experience improvements in grades and CST scores when they repeat Algebra I. Higher-performing students are likely to experience improvements on some measures of performance and declines on other measures when they repeat the course.

These findings can help educators examine the course options available to students of different achievement levels and the processes by which students are placed in math courses.

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