Research demonstrates that students’ success in rigorous middle and high school math courses is positively associated with their admission to college, earnings later in life, and career prospects. The sequential nature of math course-taking, however, can create an opportunity structure that puts certain students at a disadvantage, specifically those from lower-income and ethnically and linguistically diverse backgrounds. In 2012, the Gardner Center partnered with the Garden Grove Unified School District for a multi-year study to examine the relationship between students’ math course-taking and their educational outcomes. The goal of the analysis was to generate knowledge about the differences in students’ performance levels in specific math subject areas; potential disparities in students’ access to college-level courses; and possible differences among high schools in how students are being placed in math. Using administrative records for four cohorts of students who graduated in the 2009-10 to 2012-13 academic years, students’ math enrollment histories were traced from the 12th grade back to the 8th grade. The study’s findings raised potential practice and policy implications including (1) balancing early access to advanced-level math with incoming students’ preparation, particularly students from minority and disadvantaged backgrounds; (2) providing support to students who repeat Algebra I multiple times; and (3) implementing strategies that support students’ transition into high school.
Biag, M. and Williams, I. (2013) Examining students’ math course-taking and educational outcomes in the Garden Grove Unified School District (Year 1). Stanford, CA: John W. Gardner Center for Youth and their Communities.