An Examination of Algebra for All through Historic Context and Statewide Assessment Data

  • Jian-Hua Liang
  • Paul E. Heckman


Since 2003, California has enacted a policy through its education accountability system that encourages schools and districts to place all 8th grade students into algebra courses and therefore, be tested in algebra in the statewide assessment program. Ten years later, there are a great many more 8th graders taking algebra now. However, there are also many students repeating algebra, instead of going on taking higher level mathematics tests. This article aims to provide the historic context of this policy, previous and recent studies on 8th grade algebra, and our study based on the California Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) data. We analyzed 8th grade algebra test-taking and the following years� higher level mathematics test-taking to examine the college preparation course taking pipeline. Our longitudinal study compared two groups of students� performance on 9th grade algebra between those who previously scored below proficient on algebra at 8th grade and those who scored proficient or above on general mathematics at 8th grade. Further, another longitudinal study linked 7th grade mathematics sub-scores to 8th grade algebra achievement. The results show that �algebra for all� policy increased the number of students taking algebra at 8th grade and subsequently, taking higher level mathematics tests. However, the pipeline of the college preparation course taking has a significant leak because the number of students taking higher level mathematics decreased dramatically after algebra. Longitudinal study shows that students who pass the general mathematics test at 8th grade have a 69% greater chance to pass the algebra test at 9th grade compared to their peers who failed the algebra test at 8th grade. We also find that the sub-score rational numbers is a strong predictor of 8th grade algebra achievement. Alternatives to help all students achieve in mathematics learning are also discussed in addition to recommendations for future research.