For the past three years, the number of high school freshmen passing math has been declining steadily. In the 2017-18 school year, we saw a low of 61% get a passing grade. Through Valley of the Sun United Way’s Thriving Together initiative, we united with the Cartwright School District (CSD) and the Phoenix Union High School District (PUHSD) to stop the downward trend and improve freshman pass rates.
As students transition from middle school to high school, success in classes is an important piece of keeping kids in school. We believe we can improve student academics in the first year of high school by better preparing middle school students for their transition. Algebra for All was started as part of this middle school preparation.
Typically, Algebra is only offered to higher achieving eighth-grade students. Right now, about 1 out of 10 PUHSD juniors are ready for college-level coursework in Algebra based on their ACT results. According to research, taking Algebra by eighth grade is a critical milestone on the pathway to college readiness (Domina, 2014; Dougherty et al., 2015; Silva et al., 1990; Stein et al., 2011).
In the 2018-19 school year, we saw a break in the downward pattern of math pass rates as they remained at 61%. Although the rate hasn’t increased yet, we are happy to have stopped it from continuing to worsen so more freshman aren’t failing math as they had in the prior years. We are proud and excited to our ongoing work with local students as we look to make more improvements. While we grow this work in the 2019-20 school year, our goal is to strengthen Algebra prerequisites in the lower grades so children will begin obtaining these skills early.
During the 2017-18 school year, CSD launched its district-wide Algebra for All initiative providing Algebra coursework to all eighth-grade students. This meant providing in-depth professional development for its teachers. During this first year, CSD was able to offer Algebra coursework to over 1,700 additional students and the number of students who passed the AzMERIT Algebra exam increased by nearly 6% to 283 students. This means 99 additional students passed the assessment—that’s almost 100 students who would have been missed previously.
View the full report of this work in the DATOS: The State of Arizona’s Hispanic Market (2019) publication.
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