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For Immediate Release December xxx, 2011


Online Algebra Course Leads to Higher Achievement Students Who Take Algebra I Online Twice As Likely to Take Advanced Math Classes in Future Washington, D.C.  Online Algebra I courses, when offered to “algebra-ready” eighthgrade students at schools where typically no formal Algebra 1 course is taught, outperformed their peers in math and were twice as likely to enroll in an advanced high school mathematics course, according to a new study by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The multiyear study, Access to Algebra I: The Effects of Online Mathematics for Grade 8 Students, underscores the impact that offering online courses can have on expanding learning opportunities and providing students greater access to content-rich course work. The study is the first of its kind to examine the impact an online Algebra 1 course has on students’ mathematics achievement and future math course enrollment. “This study is an effort to inform policymakers, who are considering expanding the use of the online Algebra I course, of its positive effects,” said co–principal investigator Jessica Heppen. “It also provides information for educators who are seeking ways to provide their ‘algebra-ready’ students with a legitimate course. “In schools where course offerings are limited for various reasons, online courses are increasingly used to expand students’ options,” said Heppen. “The results of this study convincingly show that using an online course is an effective way to broaden access to Algebra I in eighth grade and to create a sequence of opportunities in the longer term.” The study found that algebra-ready (AR) students who took the online Algebra I course; •

scored approximately 5.5 points higher on the end-of-year assessment than their peers who continued with the normal mathematics curriculum.

were twice as likely to follow an advanced course sequence in high school than their peers in the control group.

did not experience any negative “side effect” on their end-of-year general math achievement, which is commonly tested on state assessments.  AMERICAN INSTITUTES FOR RESEARCH  | 1000 THOMAS JEFFERSON, NW | WASHINGTON, D.C.  20007

-morePage 2 of 2: Online Algebra Class Leads to Higher Achievement The study examined Algebra I in part because of its relation and importance to academic achievement. In general, Algebra I is significant to student success in high school, as it is a prerequisite for numerous high school mathematics and science courses. Students must understand concepts in Algebra I before they can excel in further courses. On average, 42 percent of students who enrolled in Algebra I in eighth-grade participated in advanced courses in high school. These students also took Algebra II and Geometry by tenth grade. Further, 60 percent of students who took a Calculus course in twelfth grade studied Algebra I in eighth grade. Currently, only 31 percent of eighth-grade students are enrolled in Algebra I. Nationwide, 16 percent of middle schools do not have Algebra I courses available for eighth-grade students, and these percentages concentrate in small and rural schools, according to the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study conducted in 2009 by the U.S. Department of Education. Many public middle schools, especially those in rural areas, do not have the proper funds, staffing or enrollment to offer Algebra I to AR eighth-grade students. The study concluded that the online Algebra I course is more beneficial for AR students than the general eighth-grade mathematics course. The online Algebra I course used in the study was implemented through and developed by the University of Nebraska. The yearlong course is comparative to a regular Algebra I course, utilizing learning objectives, curriculum materials, assignments, problem sets, quizzes, tests and grades. Class content is similar to traditional Algebra I courses, but instructors and students interact online and students can move ahead or spend excess time on topics as needed. About AIR Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education, and workforce productivity. For more information, visit ###


AIR Algebra Release