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The Aftermath of Accelerating Algebra: Evidence from a District Policy Initiative

  • Charles T. Clotfelter
  • Helen F. Ladd
  • Jacob L. Vigdor

In 2002/03, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina initiated a broad program of accelerating entry into algebra coursework. The proportion of moderately-performing students taking algebra in 8th grade increased from half to 85%, then reverted to baseline levels, in the span of just five years. We use this policy-induced variation to infer the impact of accelerated entry into algebra on student performance in math courses as students progress through high school. Students affected by the acceleration initiative scored significantly lower on end-of-course tests in Algebra I, and were either significantly less likely or no more likely to pass standard follow-up courses, Geometry and Algebra II, on a college-preparatory timetable. Although we also find that the district assigned teachers with weaker qualifications to Algebra I classes in the first year of the acceleration, this reduction in teacher quality accounts for only a small portion of the overall effect.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18161.

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Date of creation: Jun 2012
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18161
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  1. Donald Boyd & Hamilton Lankford & Susanna Loeb & Jonah Rockoff & James Wyckoff, 2008. "The narrowing gap in New York City teacher qualifications and its implications for student achievement in high-poverty schools," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 27(4), pages 793-818.
  2. Jonah E. Rockoff, 2004. "The Impact of Individual Teachers on Student Achievement: Evidence from Panel Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 247-252, May.
  3. Alan Krueger, 1997. "Experimental Estimates of Education Production Functions," Working Papers 758, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  4. Charles T. Clotfelter & Helen F. Ladd & Jacob L. Vigdor, 2007. "Teacher Credentials and Student Achievement in High School: A Cross-Subject Analysis with Student Fixed Effects," NBER Working Papers 13617, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Murphy, Kevin M & Topel, Robert H, 2002. "Estimation and Inference in Two-Step Econometric Models," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 20(1), pages 88-97, January.
  6. Clotfelter, Charles T. & Ladd, Helen F. & Vigdor, Jacob L., 2007. "Teacher credentials and student achievement: Longitudinal analysis with student fixed effects," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 26(6), pages 673-682, December.
  7. C. Kirabo Jackson, 2009. "Student Demographics, Teacher Sorting, and Teacher Quality: Evidence from the End of School Desegregation," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(2), pages 213-256, 04.
  8. Daniel J. Benjamin & Sebastian A. Brown & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2006. "Who is “Behavioral”? Cognitive Ability and Anomalous Preferences," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000001334, David K. Levine.
  9. Jacob Vigdor & Jens Ludwig, 2007. "Segregation and the Black-White Test Score Gap," NBER Working Papers 12988, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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