The Traditional Ordering of College Preparatory Math Courses, and an Evaluation of a Non-Traditional Ordering
Orzech, Aaron Edward
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CitationOrzech, Aaron Edward. 2018. The Traditional Ordering of College Preparatory Math Courses, and an Evaluation of a Non-Traditional Ordering. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Graduate School of Education.
AbstractA math course sequence consisting of a course in algebra and a course in geometry, followed by another course in algebra, has been an enduring feature of U.S. high school curriculum since the later 19th century. In recent decades, there has been interest in alternative math content, and curricular arrangements of math content, but a traditional sequence of courses, commonly titled Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II, has endured in most locales. Interestingly, with many reforms of the high school math curriculum having been proposed over the past century, almost nothing has been written on the possibility of changing the order of the traditional sequence while maintaining the three-course structure. In Chapter One of this dissertation, I recount the history of the three-course sequence, of alternatives that have been proposed, and of an ongoing trend towards encouraging more students to complete more of the sequence. In Chapters Two and Three I undertake an empirical analysis of the experience of a large urban district that mandated that all students follow a non-traditional sequence of consecutive Algebra I and II, followed by Geometry. I find no evidence of positive effects from this mandate, and substantial evidence of harmful effects, both direct and indirect. In Chapter Two I study Algebra II outcomes, finding that, conditional on Algebra I performance, students earned lower grades in Algebra II when they enrolled in the two courses consecutively. In Chapter Three I study Geometry outcomes. I find that students were less likely to enroll in Geometry when they delayed enrollment by an additional year, and that when the difficulty of the Algebra II course increased, it had a negative impact on student test scores in Geometry in the next year.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:37679922
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