The main purpose of the proposed study is to investigate and report on how school districts are responding to the universal early algebra demand. This is in response to the pressures on school districts to have all students complete Algebra I, or its equivalent, by grade 9. A survey will be administered to a national sample of school districts to gather information on what policies the district has on students taking Algebra I and how these policies are being implemented. Case studies will be performed for 12 of the school districts surveyed to produce more detailed information on the policy, what decisions are made for placing students in different formats of the Algebra I course, and how teachers are selected to teach these courses. The work will be done by researchers at Michigan State University in collaboration with researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. Information generated from this project will inform policy (district as well as national) related to STEM education and for influencing students' opportunities to learn particularly relevant to underrepresented students who are most frequently affected by policies related to algebra.

A survey will be constructed and administered to one knowledgeable person at each of the 1365 selected school districts. The districts will be selected from clusters defined by existing state graduation requirements for mathematics. Questions on the survey will seek responses to what pressures district leadership have for universal early algebra and ways the district is responding to these pressures. Case studies will be conducted at 12 school districts to gather more specific information on curricular, human resources, organizational, and assessment strategies that are being employed. The project will be supported by two mathematics education consultants and an advisory board. An evaluator will examine the procedures and will provide both formative and summative feedback along with an independent report on the progress of the project.

Findings from the study will be disseminated to a broad array of audiences through presentations, research journal articles, and policy briefs that will be widely available. The findings are likely to be of great interests at the national, state, and district levels and inform policy as the nation struggles to increase the rigor and proportion of students who graduate from high school and are college and career ready.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings (DRL)
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Finbarr Sloane
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University of Pennsylvania
United States
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