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Using assessment data to guide math course placement of California middle school students

Are there effective ways to identify which students are likely to succeed in Algebra I in grade 8? REL West at WestEd, in collaboration with the Silicon Valley Research Alliance, tackled this practical education problem by conducting a study using data from several California school districts.

This report compares different strategies for using student assessment data from grades 6 and 7 to identify students who are likely to succeed in Algebra I in grade 8.

A key finding is that performance on an online assessment from the Math Diagnostic Testing Project (MDTP) predicts Algebra I success approximately as well as the grade 7 standardized math test. Since MDTP results are available immediately, educators can make more timely math placement decisions and assign students to appropriate classes.

These findings should help the participating districts better understand the indicators that predict Algebra I success, refine their placement criteria, streamline their placement process, and increase the number of algebra-ready students placed in Algebra I in grade 8.

The report demonstrates an empirical approach to identifying predictors of success in Algebra I that can be emulated by other districts in California and across the nation.

Read an accompanying research brief on our Research & Tools page.