Learn about the study
This report is a follow-up to the landmark Gaining Ground in the Middle Grades study, which specified a comprehensive set of actionable practices that differentiated higher academic achievement among 303 middle grades schools in California.
This follow-up analysis inquires further into the Gaining Ground data to provide a more in-depth look at middle grades mathematics practices and policies.
The centerpiece is an empirical exploration of grade 8 Algebra I placement, based on longitudinal data linking the mathematics CSTs that students in the sample took in grade 7 (in 2008) and grade 8 (in 2009). (The findings and implications of this placement analysis are explored further in a companion Policy and Practice Brief, Preparation, Placement, Proficiency.)
In addition, this report sheds light on how middle grades schools in California are using state-adopted standards and curriculum programs, as well as standards-based assessments, as a basis for their efforts to improve student achievement. It also identifies practices and policies that appear to differentiate higher school achievement in grade 8 mathematics within this standards-based context.
Prologue: About this report and the prior study, Gaining Ground in the Middle Grades
Chapter One: State education policy priorities have strongly influenced mathematics course-taking and achievement in California's middle grades
A review of California policy and statewide student achievement trends
Chapter Two: Local mathematics practices and policies across California vary considerably, but the state's standards-based reforms have clear influence
A summary of responses from the Gaining Ground surveys of superintendents, principals, and teachers
Chapter Three: Student placement in middle grades mathematics raises challenging questions for local educators; districts and schools across California vary in their reported policies
Policy discussion, and summary of responses from the Gaining Ground surveys of superintendents, principals, and teachers
Chapter Four: Student achievement in 8th grade math relates to prior achievement in 7th grade, and California schools vary considerably in their 8th grade math placements
An empirical analysis from the Gaining Ground longitudinal data file of student placements in grade 8 mathematics
Chapter Five: Practices and policies that correlate with higher student achievement in 8th grade mathematics
New regression analyses of school achievement on the General Mathematics and Algebra I CSTs against survey items from the Gaining Ground study
Conclusion: Summary of findings
Appendix A: Further data on Algebra I placement
Appendix B: The credentials of middle grades mathematics teachers differ depending on school grade configuration and teachers' grade levels
Technical Appendix: Study analysis