The Problem: Historically, students in urban communities have been outperformed academically by their high-income peers. Students that attend schools in low-income areas are entering high school unprepared, especially in mathematics.
According to the California Department of Education, in the Los Angeles Unified School District during the 2010-2011 school year, only 31% of 8th graders scored “proficient” or above in Algebra I (a score of “proficient” indicates that the student is ready for the next level of instruction), meaning most 8th graders take Algebra I again in 9th grade. Of those repeating Algebra I freshman year of high school in 2011, only 13% scored proficient or above.
Significance: Studies have found three main predictors of whether or not students will graduate high school in 4 years and will complete the basic college entrance requirements determined by the state of California, also known as “A-G Requirements.” These predictors include: poor performance in middle school, and failing Algebra I in both 8th and 9th grade. Past studies have been able to identify over half of future dropouts as early as 6th grade1.
Short-term consequences: Students that perform poorly in middle school are three times more likely to either drop out of high school, or to graduate without meeting “A-G Requirements.”
Long-term consequences: Each year, over 35,000 students graduate from the Los Angeles Unified School District. Just over half of these students have met the minimum requirements of a four-year college or university. The 17,000 unqualified students will earn an average of $26,000 less per year than their graduate counterparts (U.S. Census Bureau).
Causes of the Problem:
1. The end of elementary school/beginning of middle school is the time period during which students become disengaged in the academic aspects of school. This correlates with low attendance and tardiness.
2. Many students enter middle school lacking basic foundational skills necessary to succeed in middle and high school mathematics. These students may have learning disabilities, or they may simply need more individual attention than can be provided in a traditional school day.