Understanding the Effects of Middle School Algebra

A Regression Discontinuity Approach

by Andrew McEachin, Thurston Domina, Andrew M. Penner

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We identify California public middle schools that use a 7th grade achievement threshold to place students into 8th grade Algebra. These schools provide 439 opportunities to estimate regression discontinuity effects of 8th grade Algebra placement. We meta-analyze these effects and find small positive effects on students' high school math and English achievement, and substantial positive effects on high school math course-taking. Further, our analyses indicate substantial treatment effect heterogeneity across schools. Descriptive analyses suggest a positive relationship between treatment effects and average school student achievement and the location of the placement threshold, and a negative relationship with student poverty.

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