Access to Algebra I: The Effects of Online Mathematics for Grade 8 Students
This study, conducted by AIR and Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) for the Regional Educational Laboratory Northeast and Islands (REL-NEI), tested the impact of expanding access to Algebra I to grade 8 students by offering an online course in schools that do not typically offer Algebra I in grade.
The study, the first randomized control trial of its kind to examine the impact of an online Algebra I course on students’ mathematics achievement and future math course enrollment, was conducted in Vermont and Maine. A total of 1,885 students from 68 schools participated in the study. Ninety percent of the schools were in rural communities. Analyses of longitudinal data from the ECLS-K study (U.S. Department of Education 2009) indicate that a significant proportion of schools do not offer Algebra I to grade 8 students (approximately 16% nationally), and moreover, that the proportion of schools in rural areas with limited access to Algebra I is higher than in urban and suburban areas.
The results indicate that offering Algebra I as an online course to algebra-ready (AR) students is an effective way to broaden access in schools that do not typically offer Algebra I in grade 8. Taking this course significantly affected students’ algebra achievement at the end of grade 8 and increased their likelihood of participating in an advanced coursetaking sequence in high school. The course had no discernible side effects on AR students’ general mathematics achievement at the end of grade 8 or any negative effects on N–AR students’ measured outcomes.
The report was authored by Jessica B. Heppen, AIR; Kirk Walters, AIR; Margaret (Peggy) Clements, EDC; Ann-Marie Faria, AIR; Cheryl Tobey, EDC; Nicholas Sorensen, AIR; and Katherine Culp, EDC. It was prepared for the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, under contract ED-06C0-0025.