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

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

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Charles T. Clotfelter & Helen F. Ladd & Jacob L. Vigdor, 2012. "The Aftermath of Accelerating Algebra: Evidence from a District Policy Initiative," NBER Working Papers 18161, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18161
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Alan B. Krueger, 1999. "Experimental Estimates of Education Production Functions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(2), pages 497-532.
    2. Jacob Vigdor & Jens Ludwig, 2007. "Segregation and the Black-White Test Score Gap," NBER Working Papers 12988, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. 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, April.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. Daniel J. Benjamin & Sebastian A. Brown & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2013. "Who Is ‘Behavioral’? Cognitive Ability And Anomalous Preferences," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(6), pages 1231-1255, December.
    8. Charles T. Clotfelter & Helen F. Ladd & Jacob L. Vigdor, 2010. "Teacher Credentials and Student Achievement in High School: A Cross-Subject Analysis with Student Fixed Effects," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 45(3).
    9. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Thurston Domina & Andrew McEachin & Paul Hanselman & Priyanka Agarwal & NaYoung Hwang & Ryan Lewis, 2016. "Beyond Tracking and Detracking The Dimensions of Organizational Differentiation in Schools," Working Papers WR-1155, RAND Corporation.
    2. Han Yu & Naci Mocan, 2018. "The Impact of High School Curriculum on Confidence, Academic Success, and Mental and Physical Well-Being of University Students," NBER Working Papers 24573, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Cory Koedel & Mark Ehlert & Eric Parsons & Michael Podgursky, 2012. "Selecting Growth Measures for School and Teacher Evaluations," Working Papers 1210, Department of Economics, University of Missouri.
    4. Huebener, Mathias & Kuger, Susanne & Marcus, Jan, 2017. "Increased instruction hours and the widening gap in student performance," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 15-34.
    5. Dahmann, Sarah C., 2017. "How does education improve cognitive skills? Instructional time versus timing of instruction," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 35-47.
    6. Huebener, Mathias & Marcus, Jan, 2017. "Compressing instruction time into fewer years of schooling and the impact on student performance," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 1-14.
    7. Heissel, Jennifer, 2016. "The relative benefits of live versus online delivery: Evidence from virtual algebra I in North Carolina," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 99-115.
    8. Joshua Goodman & Dougherty, Shaun & Darryl Hill & Erica Litke & Lindsay Page, 2015. "Early Math Coursework and College Readiness: Evidence from Targeted Middle School Math Acceleration," Working Paper 283481, Harvard University OpenScholar.
    9. Charles T. Clotfelter & Steven W. Hemelt & Helen Ladd, 2016. "Raising the Bar for College Admission: North Carolina’s Increase in Minimum Math Course Requirements," NBER Working Papers 21926, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Dougherty, Shaun M. & Goodman, Joshua S. & Hill, Darryl V. & Litke, Erica G. & Page, Lindsay C., 2017. "Objective course placement and college readiness: Evidence from targeted middle school math acceleration," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 141-161.
    11. Kalena E. Cortes & Joshua S. Goodman & Takako Nomi, 2015. "Intensive Math Instruction and Educational Attainment: Long-Run Impacts of Double-Dose Algebra," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 50(1), pages 108-158.
    12. repec:hrv:hksfac:34298862 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. repec:umc:wpaper:1308 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Arce-Trigatti, Paula, 2018. "The impact of state-mandated Advanced Placement programs on student outcomes," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 180-193.
    15. Eric Parsons, 2014. "Does Attending a Low-Achieving School Affect High-Performing Student Outcomes?," Working Papers 1407, Department of Economics, University of Missouri, revised 18 Feb 2015.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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