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IES Grant

Title: Comprehensive Evaluation of the Effects of District-Wide High School Curriculum Reform on Academic Achievement and Attainment in Chicago
Center: NCER Year: 2006
Principal Investigator: Allensworth, Elaine Awardee: University of Chicago
Program: Improving Education Systems      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years Award Amount: $1,844,860
Goal: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305R060059
Description:

Purpose: There is increasing recognition and concern in the U.S. that too few high school students, especially those in urban areas, are graduating with the skills needed for college and the workforce. Currently, there are two major curriculum reform movements at work in high schools: one to engage all students in traditional college preparatory work, and another to increase the difficulty of college preparatory curriculums. These movements are based on studies showing that students who take more rigorous coursework have higher achievement and educational attainment. However, the applicability of this research to diverse high schools is weak. In fact, at the same time that enrollment in rigorous coursework has increased dramatically, achievement scores in reading and math among 17-year-olds have been stagnant. The value of these types of curriculum reform in a broader educational context is in need of study.

Project Activities: The researchers will test the "constrained curriculum hypothesis," and the supportive effect of advanced collegiate coursework such as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs, as implemented within an urban public school setting from 1997 to the present. "Constrained curriculum" refers to policies enacted to require that all students take a strong college preparatory program in high school. This includes: (1) more rigorous college-preparatory graduation requirements for all students; (2) elimination of remedial courses and math courses below Algebra I; (3) double-period Algebra and English 9 classes for students entering high school with test scores below the national average; (4) more participation in Honors and Advanced Placement courses and the International Baccalaureate program; and (5) implementation of a uniform curriculum and enhanced teaching for core courses across high schools in this large urban center. The researchers will attempt to ascertain whether these curricular reforms have improved overall student outcomes.

Products: Products from this project include increased knowledge of the impact of the "constrained curriculum" approach to high school reform, and publications.

Setting: The schools are located in Illinois.

Population: The study population includes all students attending public schools in a large urban center in Illinois: approximately 270,000 elementary school, and 106,000 secondary school students. The student population is about 50% African American, 38% Latino, 9% European American, and 3% Asian and other ethnicities. Around 85% of the students are from low-income families.

Intervention: The researchers will test the "constrained curriculum hypothesis," and the supportive effect of advanced collegiate coursework such as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs, as implemented within an urban public school setting from 1997 to the present. "Constrained curriculum" refers to policies enacted to require that all students take a strong college preparatory program in high school. This includes: (1) more rigorous college-preparatory graduation requirements for all students; (2) elimination of remedial courses and math courses below Algebra I; (3) double-period Algebra and English 9 classes for students entering high school with test scores below the national average; (4) more participation in Honors and Advanced Placement courses and the International Baccalaureate program; and (5) implementation of a uniform curriculum and enhanced teaching for core courses across high schools in this large urban center. The researchers will attempt to ascertain whether these curricular reforms have improved overall student outcomes.

Research Design and Methods: The data are longitudinal at the level of district, school, and student, and the design will include repeated observations for individual students nested within cohorts of students moving through the school system across time. The treatment is determined simply by the year that students entered high school. Because multiple cohorts of data exist, the researchers can examine how the relation between elementary achievement and later outcomes changes over time, before and after the introduction of new policies. Multiple methods will be used, including cohort comparisons, regression-discontinuity, and instrumental-variable models--each of which address issues of selection--to overcome the flaws in each individual approach and to confirm the conclusions reached from each method.

Control Condition: Following cohorts of first-time ninth-graders across time allow comparison (pre-policy) groups that should differ little from the treatment (post-policy) groups, except for their exposure to the new curricular policies.

Key Measures: Measures include transcript information about course enrollments (including remedial courses), credits, failures, and grades; graduation; ACT scores; college enrollment, persistence, and graduation; and detailed data on elementary school performance.

Data Analytic Strategy: Hierarchical models will allow the researchers to explore how changes in outcomes among specific types of students differ among specific types of schools. The analyses are three-level hierarchical linear models with students nested within cohorts nested within schools.

Publications

Book chapter

Nomi, T., and Allensworth, E. (2011). Double-Dose Algebra as a Strategy for Improving Mathematics Achievement of Struggling Students: Evidence From Chicago Public Schools. In R. Gersten, and R. Newman-Gonchar (Eds.), Understanding RTI in Mathematics (pp. 169–187). Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing Co.

Roderick, M., and Stoker, G. (2010). Bringing Rigor to the Study of Rigor: Are Advanced Placement Courses a Useful Approach to Increasing College Access and Success for Urban and Minority Youths?. In J.L. Meece, and J.S. Eccles (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Schools, Schooling, and Human Development, Chapter 14 (pp. 216–237). New York: Routledge.

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Allensworth, E., Nomi, T., Montgomery, N., and Lee, V. (2009). College Preparatory Curriculum for All: Academic Consequences of Requiring Algebra and English I for Ninth Graders in Chicago. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 31 (4): 367–391.

Lee, V.E., and Ready, D.D. (2009). U.S. High School Curriculum: Three Phases of Contemporary Research and Reform. The Future of Children, 19 (1): 135–156.

Mazzeo, C., Allensworth, E., and Lee, V. (2010). College Prep for All? What We've Learned in Chicago, Commentary. Education Week, 29 (30): 25–26.

Nomi, T. (2012). The Unintended Consequences of an Algebra-for-All Policy on High-Skill Students: Effects on Instructional Organization and Students' Academic Outcomes. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 34 (4): 489–505.

Nomi, T., and Allensworth, E. (2009). Double-Dose Algebra as an Alternative Strategy to Remediation: Effects on Students' Academic Outcomes. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 2 (2): 111–148.

Nomi, T., and Allensworth, E. (2013). Sorting and Supporting: Why Double-Dose Algebra led to Better Test Scores but More Course Failures. American Education Research Journal, 50 (4): 756–788.

Nongovernment report, issue brief, or practice guide

Coca, V., Johnson, D.W. ,Thomas Kelly-Kemple, T. Williams, N.O., Roderick, M.R., and Moragne, K. (2011). Working to my Potential: The Postsecondary Experiences of CPS Students in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. Chicago: Consortium On Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago.

Durwood, C., Krone, E., and Mazzeo, C. (2009). Are two Algebra Classes Better Than one? The Effects of Double-Dose Instruction in Chicago. Chicago, IL: Consortium on Chicago School Research.

Mazzeo, C. (2010). College Prep for All? What We've Learned From Chicago's Efforts. Chicago: Consortium on Chicago School Research. Montgomery, N., and Allensworth, E. (2010). Passing Through Science: The Effects of Raising Graduation Requirements in Science on Course-Taking and Academic Achievement in Chicago. Chicago: Consortium on Chicago School Research.

Roderick, M., Coca, V., Moeller, E., and Kelley-Kemple, T. (2013). From High School to the Future: The Challenge of Senior Year in the Chicago Public Schools. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research.

** This project was submitted to and funded under Middle and High School Reform in FY 2006.


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