Test-Based Acceleration in Middle School Math: Impacts on College Entry and STEM Major Choice for High-achieving Students and Under-represented Groups
Title: Test-Based Acceleration in Middle School Math: Impacts on College Entry and STEM Major Choice for High-achieving Students and Under-represented Groups
Topic/Goal: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education; Goal 3, Efficacy and Follow-up (Retrospective)
Purpose: Retrospective analysis of an accelerated middle school math curriculum offered in Broward County (Florida) Public School District (BCPS) since the early 2000s. The program, Great Explorations in Mathematics (GEM), places eligible students in Pre-Algebra in 6th grade, Algebra 1 in 7th grade and Geometry in 8th grade, accelerating students by two years relative to the standard curriculum. Students who score above the 80th percentile on their 5th grade statewide math test are eligible to enter in 6th grade; continuing eligibility is predicated on achieving at least a B average. The algebra and geometry courses are fully compatible with honors track high school classes. GEM is offered in every middle school; consequently the participating population is large (4,000 entering students each year) and diverse (21% black, 24% Hispanic, 51% white or Asian). Nearly 40% of Broward students who ultimately receive a STEM degree participate in GEM. We will use regression discontinuity methods to evaluate the impact of GEM participation on math course selection and grades in high school, on participation and scores in AP courses and college entry tests, on college entry and quality, degree attainment, and probability of obtaining a STEM degree. We will also use matched comparisons with students in other districts to evaluate the effects of the program on non-participants who may be impacted by lower peer quality or other spillover effects from the presence of the accelerated track.
Setting: BCPS is the 6th largest US school district with about 25,000 students per grade. It is also highly diverse with about one third black and one third Hispanic students. About half of all students receive free/reduced price lunches in elementary grades. GEM programming has been operating since 2000.
Populations: Sixth grade students in BCPS schools between 2003 and 2010. Comparison sample from all other Florida school districts.
Intervention: Test-based accelerated math curriculum in 6th-8th grade. Pre-Algebra in 6th grade, Algebra 1 in 7th grade and Geometry in 8th grade. Initial entry based on threshold score for 5th grade math.
Control Condition: Regular math curriculum in BCPS: Pre-Algebra in 6th-8th grades with Algebra 1 in 9th and Geometry in 10th. Advanced track offers option of Algebra in 8th grade. For between-district comparisons, control condition is the regular curriculum in districts with no GEM-equivalent.
Research Methods: Regression discontinuity (RD) methods to evaluate the impact of GEM participation relative to the regular math curriculum. Synthetic control group method (generalized comparative interrupted time series method) to evaluate effect of presence of GEM program on non-participants and infra-marginal participants.
Key Outcome Measures: Entry to 4-year college; degree completion, attainment of STEM degree. Also intermediate outcomes including completing calculus with A or B grade and AP course-taking.
Data Analysis Strategy: Non-parametric RD approaches, with testing for manipulation and differential attrition. Non-parametric matched synthetic control group methods, with equating of pre-trends in math scores in three years prior to program.
Supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, US Department of Education grant #R305A190175
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