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ERIC Number: ED538053
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 52
Abstractor: ERIC
College Bound in Middle School & High School? How Math Course Sequences Matter
Finkelstein, Neal; Fong, Anthony; Tiffany-Morales, Juliet; Shields, Patrick; Huang, Min
Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd
As California competes for jobs in an increasingly competitive global economy, the state faces a looming shortage of highly educated workers (PPIC, 2012). For a variety of reasons, the need for individuals with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is of particular concern. Nowhere is this more true than in the discipline of mathematics where understanding develops cumulatively, requiring that students master progressively more complex building-block concepts and skills in order to be successful in each next-higher-level course. Prior research confirms that success in high-level mathematics in high school is predictive of postsecondary success and careers in STEM fields. This study, funded by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and the Noyce Foundation, digs deeper into this middle- and high-school connection as it applies to STEM, in order to better understand the degree to which California students stay on the trajectory for STEM-related attendance eligibility at California's public universities and, if students veer off the trajectory, to better understand when and why. Thus, researchers examined math and science course-taking patterns for a representative cohort of some 24,000 California students who were enrolled in grade 7 in 2004/05 and stayed in their district through grade 12 in 2009/10. Although the study looked at students' science course-taking, this report focuses more tightly on the mathematics-related findings, partly because it turns out that course-taking patterns and performance in science are quite similar to, though less complex than, those in mathematics and partly because mathematical understanding, while not sufficient, is essential to student success in some key high school science courses, such as chemistry and physics. The math findings include: (1) Math performance in grade 7 is predictive of high-school math course-taking; (2) While the majority of students who achieved at least Proficient on their math CSTs are those who took algebra 1 in grade 8, geometry in grade 9, and algebra 2 in grade 10, in general this accelerated pathway does not support students who are not proficient in math in grade 7; (3) Many students repeat algebra, but few repeaters achieve proficiency on their second attempt; (4) Districts are keenly aware of poor student performance in mathematics but less aware of coursetaking patterns; and (5) Districts feel great urgency to improve algebra outcomes. Data Source is appended. (Contains 5 figures, 4 tables, and 24 footnotes.)
Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd. 133 Mission Street Suite 220, Santa Cruz, CA 95060. Tel: 831-427-3628; Fax: 831-427-1612; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: Grade 10; Grade 11; Grade 12; Grade 7; Grade 8; Grade 9; High Schools; Junior High Schools; Middle Schools; Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation; Noyce Foundation
Authoring Institution: Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd
Identifiers - Location: California
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A
IES Cited: ED558157; ED559739; ED546776