A Quantitative Analysis of Algebra I in Grade Eight and the Impact on Academic Performance in a Large, Urban, New Jersey Public School District

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For most American High School students, taking algebra in high school has always been a rite of passage. Traditionally, Algebra I has long been a ninth-grade student's first experience with higher-level mathematics. To maintain a competitive edge in a global economy, numerous school districts in the United States have rearranged mathematics curricula to relocate algebra down to the middle school. Placement in eighth grade algebra provides students with an opportunity for rigor and higher levels of attainment in mathematics coursework by the completion of grade twelve. The effectiveness of moving algebra from grade nine to grade eight has become a highly debated topic amongst educators and lawmakers. Policymakers and administrators that favor moving Algebra I into the eighth grade believe doing so will assist in closing the achievement gap currently in existence for gender, race and socioeconomic status. To achieve this, substantial sums of money must be invested in the implementation of algebra programs in middle school. Proponents of grade eight algebra strongly advocate for algebra placement prior to high school as an intervention to reduce the gap between American students and their global counterparts. "The U.S. also needs to do a better job of identifying and nurturing its mathematically talented youth, regardless of their gender, race, or national origin. Doing so is vital to the future of the U.S. Economy" (Hyde, Mertz, & Scheckman, 2009). In contrast, researchers such as Nomi (2012) have argued that early algebra placement is not beneficial for every child. Researchers such as Levy (2012) and Shearing (2016) agree that Black and Hispanic students, particularly of low socioeconomic status are victims of an achievement gap. "Students who are eligible for free and reduced lunch tend to be approximately two years behind that of students of the "average better-off student of the same age" (McKinsey & Company, 2009, p. 6). While there has been agreement among the experts regarding the existence of the gap, their suggested solutions conflict. The research conducted by this researcher will contribute to the existing literature on Algebra I placement. The purpose of this study was to examine both the proportionality of student placement in grade eight Algebra I by gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status, and the impact of grade eight Algebra I participation on academic performance on mathematics in a large, urban, New Jersey Public School District. This impact was measured based on the outcomes of Algebra I and Geometry final grades, Algebra I and Geometry PARCC scores, and tenth-grade mathematics PSAT/NMSQT scores. This study examined the relationships between academic outcomes for eighth-grade Algebra exposure and academic outcomes as described.

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  • 01/31/2024
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