A couple weeks ago, I wrote a story about a study that looked at the rising number of students taking algebra in 8th grade and made the argument that many of those middle schoolers are woefully unprepared for the challenge.
How unprepared? Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution examined coursetaking data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress and found that the lowest-performing students taking 8th grade algebra were scoring five or six years below grade level.
Now a new study takes issue with Loveless’ conclusions, particularly his use of data comparing average state NAEP scores and students’ enrollments in 8th grade Algebra 1. It basically argues that Loveless is overstating any link between more middle schoolers taking 8th grade algebra and their struggles in math. The new review, authored by Carol Corbett Burris, says the report also doesn’t do enough to touch on prior research on the potential benefits of holding middle schoolers to higher math standards.
The analysis is published by the Think Tank Review Project, a joint effort run by scholars at Arizona State University and the University of Colorado that puts studies published by policy organizations through an independent analysis. Burris is identified as a researcher and the principal of a New York school with a successful accelerated mathematics program.
You can read the review of the algebra study here. Make your own call.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.