Students Scoring Proficient or Higher on Algebra I CST, by Race/Ethnicity

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Learn More About Math Proficiency

Measures of Math Proficiency on 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 and socioeconomic 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, 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.

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.

Math Proficiency
College Eligibility
Demographics of Children with Special Needs
Disconnected Youth
English Learners
High School Graduation
School Connectedness
Pupil Support Service Personnel
Reading Proficiency
School Safety
Truancy, Suspensions & Expulsions
Why This Topic Is Important
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’s Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Child Trends. (2012). Mathematics proficiency. Retrieved from:

2.  Musen, L. (2010). Pre-algebra and algebra enrollment and achievement. Providence, RI: Annenberg Institute for School Reform, Brown University. Retrieved from:

3.  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:

4.  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:

How Children Are Faring
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 2003 and 2013. Still, only about a third (36%) of California students in those grades demonstrated algebra proficiency in 2013. Among counties with available data, figures ranged from 13% to 51% that year. Though disparities by 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 2003 to 2013.

With regard to the high school exit exam, 85% of California 10th graders passed the mathematics portion in 2014. At the state level, the passing percentages have increased overall, and for almost 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.
Policy Implications
In 2013, California modified its Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, requiring a focus on the drivers of math achievement. The new standards emphasize developing “habits of mind” to foster mathematical understanding and encourage real-world problem solving skills (1, 2).

According to research and subject experts, other policy options that could improve math proficiency include:
  • Investing in quality preschool for California children, to promote kindergarten readiness and lay the foundation for later achievement (3)
  • Analyzing district and school-level data on student achievement and progress by racial/ethnic group, especially for children of color and low-income students so that data can inform policy (4)
  • 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 (5)
  • Encouraging and investing in comprehensive, evidence-based policies to promote family involvement in school, as this is strongly related to children’s academic achievement (6)

For more policy ideas on math proficiency in California, see the Research & Links section on or visit the Center on the Future of Teaching and Learning, the Institute of Education Sciences What Works Clearinghouse, Education Trust-West, EdSource, and California Algebra Forum. Also see Policy Implications on under Reading Proficiency, High School Graduation and Family Income & Poverty.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  California Department of Education. (2013). Common core state standards resources. Retrieved from:

2.  Neal, F., et al. (2012). College bound in middle school and high school? How math course sequences matter.
The Center for the Future of Teaching & Learning at WestEd. Retrieved from:

3.  Weiland, C., & Yoshikawa, H. (2013). Impacts of a prekindergarten program on children's mathematics, language, literacy, executive function, and emotional skills.
Child Development. Retrieved from:

4.  Stuart, L., & Hahnel, C. (2011).
A report card on district achievement: How low-income, African-American, and Latino students fare in California school districts. The Education Trust-West. Retrieved from:

5.  Williams, T., et al. (2011). 
Preparation, placement, proficiency: Improving middle grades math performance. Policy and Practice Brief. Mountain View, CA: EdSource. Retrieved from:

6.  Weiss, H., et al. (2013).
Preparing educators to engage families: Case studies using an ecological systems framework, third edition. Retrieved from:


Websites with Related Information
Key Reports
County/Regional Reports
More Data Sources For Math Proficiency