Kidsdata.org reports the percentage of public school students who have scored proficient or higher on the Algebra I California Standards Test (CST), as well as this information by race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and disability status. In order to score Proficient, a student must demonstrate a competent
and adequate understanding of the knowledge and skills measured by this
assessment, at this grade, in this content area; scoring Advanced
requires a comprehensive and complex understanding.
In addition, kidsdata.org provides the percentage of 10th grade public school students who passed the mathematics section of the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE); this also is available by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status.
The Algebra I CST is an end-of-course test taken by public school students in grades 7-11 who are enrolled in Algebra I. The test assesses student achievement according to state standards. The CST data are different from the CAHSEE data in that they are available by level of proficiency and disability status.
The primary purpose of the CAHSEE, according to the California Department of Education, is to significantly improve pupil achievement in public high schools and to ensure that students who graduate from high schools can demonstrate grade-level competency in reading, writing, and mathematics. The mathematics section of the CAHSEE addresses state standards in grades 6 and 7, and in Algebra I. Between grades 10 and 12, students have six opportunities to take the test. The CAHSEE was offered for the first time in spring 2001. Beginning in the 2005-2006 school year, students were required to pass the CAHSEE to receive a public high school diploma, in addition to meeting the individual school district's requirements for graduation.
Basic math skills are essential to navigate through life, and competence in mathematics is associated with readiness for the workplace and higher future earnings (1). Research has found that taking higher-level math and science courses is correlated with attending and graduating from college (1). Mastering algebra, in particular, is critical as it is a high school graduation requirement for all California students, and algebra is considered a “gateway” to college preparatory courses (2). Experts describe algebra as "a foundation and language system
on which higher order mathematics, science,
technology, and engineering courses are built" (2). Large disparities persist by student socioeconomic status and racial/ethnic group for both algebra enrollment and successful course completion (3, 4).
Nationwide, increasing emphasis is being placed on children's academic achievement in mathematics and other subjects (1, 4). Though U.S. and California student math scores have improved since the 1990s, California’s scores consistently rank among the lowest in the nation (3).
For more information on math proficiency, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.
Sources for this narrative:
- Child Trends. (2012). Mathematics proficiency. Retrieved from: http://www.childtrendsdatabank.org/?q=node/256
- Musen, L. (2010). Pre-algebra and algebra enrollment and achievement. Providence, RI: Annenberg Institute for School Reform, Brown University. Retrieved from: http://www.annenberginstitute.org/pdf/LeadingIndicator_Math.pdf
- National Center for Education Statistics. (2011). The Nation's report card: Mathematics 2011. U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved from: http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pubs/main2011/2012458.asp
- Bitter, C., & O’Day, J. (2010). Raising expectations for mathematics instruction in California: Algebra and beyond. California Collaborative on District Reform Policy and Practice Brief. Retrieved from: http://www.cacollaborative.org/pdf/CA_Collaborative_8th_Grade_Algebra.pdf
Despite broad agreement on the need to boost math proficiency among California students and to bridge the racial/ethnic achievement gap, there is sharp disagreement on policy reforms to achieve these goals. In addition, California is implementing new math standards and is placing more students in Algebra I by eighth grade than in the past, requiring a new focus on the drivers of math achievement. These standards create challenges in authorizing new assessments, curricula, and teacher evaluation systems that align with the standards (1). Despite these differences and challenges, quality teaching is one key point of consensus. Teacher quality has been shown to have a significant impact on student achievement (2, 3).
According to research and subject experts, policy options that could improve math proficiency include:
- Improving teacher quality at every grade level (2, 3); recognizing that specific math-related teacher qualifications matter for improving student outcomes in math (2, 5)
Investing in quality preschool for California children, to promote kindergarten readiness and lay the foundation for later achievement (4)
- Articulating state, district, and school-level middle school policies emphasizing improving academic outcomes for all students, including tying student outcomes to teacher evaluations; aligning middle school curricula, instructional practices and assessments with state standards; and prioritizing student academic performance when selecting superintendents and principals (6)
- Analyzing district and school-level data on student achievement and progress by racial/ethnic group, especially for children of color, so that data can inform policy (7)
- Ensuring that state, district and school-level policies provide the necessary support to allow students to succeed with state math standards, particularly in the middle grades; this includes improving placement policies, adopting appropriate curriculum in a timely way, and ensuring teacher and student preparation for math aligned with new content standards (8, 9, 10)
- Encouraging and investing in comprehensive, evidence-based policies to promote family involvement in school, as it is strongly related to children’s academic achievement (11). Family involvement should be integrated as part of the school instructional strategy, and family engagement policies should be evaluated for effectiveness.
For more policy ideas on math proficiency in California, see the Research & Links section on kidsdata.org or visit the Center on the Future of Teaching and Learning, the Institute of Education Sciences What Works Clearinghouse, Education Trust-West, EdSource, California Algebra Forum, and Preschool California. Also see Policy Implications on kidsdata.org under Reading Proficiency, High School Dropouts and Family Income & Poverty.
Sources for this narrative:
California Department of Education. (2010). Common core state standards resources. Retrieved from: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cc/
- Darling-Hammond, L. (2000). Teacher quality and student achievement: A review of state policy evidence. Education Policy Analysis Archives. Retrieved from: http://epaa.asu.edu/ojs/article/view/392
- Rivkin, S. G., et al. (2005). Teachers, schools and academic achievement. Econometrica, 73(2), 417-458. Retrieved from: http://www.econ.ucsb.edu/~jon/Econ230C/HanushekRivkin.pdf
- Barnett, W. S., et al. (2007). Effects of five state prekindergarten programs on early learning. National Institute for Early Education Research. Retrieved from: http://nieer.org/pdf/MultiState1007.pdf
- Goe, L. (2007). The link between teacher quality and student outcomes: A Research Synthesis. National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality. Retrieved from: http://www.tqsource.org/link.php
EdSource. (2010). Gaining ground in the middle grades: Why some schools do better. Retrieved from: http://www.edsource.org/middle-grades-study.html
- EdSource. (2008). Raising African American student achievement: California goals, local outcomes. Retrieved from: http://www.edsource.org/pub_AAachievement5-08_report.html
- Bitter, C., & O'Day, J. (2010). Raising expectations for mathematics instruction in California: Algebra and beyond. California Collaborative on District Reform. Retrieved from: http://www.cacollaborative.org/pdf/CA_Collaborative_8th_Grade_Algebra.pdf
- EdSource. (2009). Algebra policy in California: Great expectations and serious challenges. Retrieved from: http://www.edsource.org/pub_algebra09.html
- Williams, T., et al. (2011). Preparation, placement, proficiency: Improving middle grades math performance. Policy and Practice Brief. Mountain
View, CA: EdSource. Retrieved from: http://www.edsource.org/pub11-middle-grades-math.html
- Caspe, M., et al. (2007). Family involvement in elementary school children’s education. Harvard Family Research Project. Retrieved from: http://www.hfrp.org/family-involvement/publications-resources/family-involvement-in-elementary-school-children-s-education
Statewide and in many counties, the percentage of students in grades 7-11 who scored proficient or higher on the Algebra I CST increased between 2004 and 2011. Still, only 32% of California students in those grades demonstrated algebra proficiency in 2011, and there was considerable range at the county level; among counties with available data, figures ranged from 15% to 48% that year. Though disparities by disability status, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status persist in algebra proficiency, considerable gains were made by California's economically disadvantaged students and those in every racial/ethnic group (for which data are available) from 2004-2011. Students with disabilities also made gains, although just 10% of 7th-11th graders with a reported disability scored proficient or higher in Algebra I in California, compared to 34% of students without a reported disability in 2011.
With regard to the high school exit exam, 84% of California 10th graders
passed the mathematics portion in 2012, a slight increase from previous
years. At the state level, the passing percentages have increased for all types of students (i.e., those with and without economic disadvantages, and those in every racial/ethnic group for which data are available) since 2005. However, economically disadvantaged students still have lower overall passing percentages than higher income students, and disparities remain among racial/ethnic groups.