Open enrollment in high level courses
One approach to reforming tracking is make all higher level courses, including AP courses, open to all students. Researchers who have looked at this approach have found that just opening enrollment does not increase the diversity in higher level courses.
Rowland and Shircliffe (2016) looked at what happened when one high school in Florida switched to open enrollment Advanced Placement courses in an attempt to increase the diversity of their AP classes. Read more
Friend and Degen (2007) evaluated an open enrollment system for advanced courses and found that, while overall enrollment increased, enrollment for low income students and students of color did not increase much. Read more
Yonezawa, Wells, and Serna (2002) investigated what happened at six mixed race high schools that were attempting to diversify their high level courses. Read more
Open enrollment in high level courses with student recruitment
Some school districts have been able to increase the diversity of their higher level courses by combining open enrollment with active recruitment of Black and Latinx students for those courses.
Godley, Monroe, and Castma (2015) focused on one English AP teacher in Pittsburgh taught an increasingly diverse class and share statistics on AP changes in the city. Read more
Raising standards and graduation requirements
In 2007, officials in Michigan changed the state’s high school standards, requiring that students take more rigorous courses in order to graduate. With the new standards, all students would graduate ready the graduate high school. The following studies investigated the effects and challenges of the new Michigan Merit Curriculum.
Jacob, Dynarski, Frank, and Schneider (2017) analyzed state level data to determine the effects of the new curriculum on test scores and high school completion. They found a small change in test scores for science only and mixed effects on graduation times. Read more
Bair and Bair (2011) spent four years at one high school in Michigan looking at how the new standards were implemented. They found that teachers were given no support or resources which lead to the watering down of courses and the creation of a new academic track of students who failed a course. Read more
Bair and Bair (2014) reported more findings from the same high school, focusing on the lack of support for teachers and students in implementing the new standards. Read more
Implementing Algebra for All
If students do not take Algebra I in 8th grade, it is generally impossible for them to take Calculus in high school. Math courses typically build on each, meaning that what students study in 8th grade has an enormous impact on their ability to take college credit math courses years later. Because of this, some states and cities have implemented algebra for all initiatives, requiring that 8th graders take algebra. Like the Michigan Merit Curriculum, researchers have generally found little positive impact from those initiatives often due to a lack of support for teachers and students with the changes.
Stein, Kaufman, Sherman, and Hillen (2011) reviewed 44 studies on the effects of universal algebra for the 8th graders. They found that, when students received support, the initiatives lead to a large increase in enrollment by lower income students with only a slight increase in over all course failure rates. Read more
Rickles (2013) used nationally representative data to determine the overall effect of universal algebra policies, generally finding positive effects for the policy. Read more
In the first of a series of studies on the effects of California’s push for universal algebra, Domina, Penner, Penner, and Coley (2014) looked at what math courses students in one district took in 8th grade from 2004 to 2007 and their overall achievement in the courses. While they found that the enrollment in 8th grade algebra increased, but that did not lead to changes in 10th grade mathematics achievement. Note that the state did not provide additional supports for teachers or students with this initiative. Read more
In a state wide analysis of the effects of California’s universal algebra psuh, Domina, McEachin, and Penner (2015) found increased enrollment in 8th grade algebra but was associated with lower achievement in 10th grade math courses. Read more
In a third study looking at the effects of California’s universal algebra push, Domina, Hanselman, and Hwang (2016) found that in addition to an increase in 8th grade algebra enrollment, there was also an increase in 7th grade algebra enrollment, which resulted in maintaining an advantage for students at wealthier schools. Read more
Chicago was another locality that moved towards an algebra for all policy. From 1997 onwards, students were required to take algebra I before enrolling in high school. In the first of a series of studies on the effects of Chicago’s program, Allensworth, Nomi, and Montgomery (2009) found few positive effects from the program. Read more
In 2003, Chicago modified its universal algebra mandate to also require that students entering ninth grade with lower math skills take two periods of algebra. Nome and Allensworth (2013) found that, unlike the regular initiative, this lead to some improvement in test scores although it also led to higher failure rates for some students. Read more
Nomi and Raudenbush (2016) looked again at the effects of the double dose algebra policy, this time focusing on classroom composition. They found that the double dose policy had a large effect at schools that kept students heterogeneously grouped but little effect at schools that sorted students by ability. Read more