The purpose of this study is to examine how school and district leaders enact district strategies to begin to uncover the nature of the opportunities to learn algebra in the U.S. The dimensions of opportunities to learn being explored at the district level consist of the kinds of structures and tools available to districts to shape learning in classrooms, including a) the curriculum resources used, b) the development and use of professional expertise (human resources), c) the organization and structure of learning, and d) how learning is assessed.
In order to understand the broad landscape, Component 1 involves a multi-state survey of curriculum leaders sent to over 2,000 districts, aimed at uncovering trends in how early algebra pressures are perceived and acted upon. Component 2 allows particular landmarks within this algebra landscape to be probed further with 12 case studies of purposefully selected districts from four different regions of the United States. This more intensive, in-person examination of responses to universal early algebra will be guided by the concept of students’ opportunities to learn algebra. The two components of the study, together, allow us to make broad generalizations related to universal early algebra in the US as well as provide nuanced, deeper understandings of these efforts and their related challenges in the context of specific cases.
The project is using a cross-sectional and comparative research design and will generate evidence that is descriptive [case study]. Original data are being collected on administration and teachers involved in decision making aspects of Algebra 1 policies, procedures, and practices using school records, assessments of learning, and survey research [online and semi-structured or informal interviews]. The 12 districts participating as case studies were purposefully selected to represent diverse size, regions, and demographics. Instruments or measures being used include a survey instrument that was piloted and developed for use in Component 1, and an interview protocol was developed for use in Component 2.
The survey data collected for Component 1 will be analyzed by standard descriptive analyses as well as by exploring relationships among various contexts (e.g., states that are raising graduation requirements and those that are making no changes), district characteristics (e.g., small districts and large districts, districts serving high percentages of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch and those with lower percentages), and algebra practices (e.g., districts who have adopted new curriculum materials, those that have instituted particular professional development programs, those that have changed the school schedule to have struggling students take two hours of algebra daily). For Component 2, the 12 case studies, the analysis method of constant-comparison will be used. Analysis will begin by focusing on each district as a case, and creating a profile of each district case by coding data according to the four dimensions of opportunities to learn. District cases will also be compared and contrasted within a region to develop synthetic region-level cases, which will identify common themes that appear to be attributable to the common policy context shared by all the local districts in the region.
Preliminary findings have been generated from our survey, but we are still collecting additional survey data.
A website is being developed. It does not currently share findings but will in the near future.