Panel Paper: The Effects of the Elevate Math Summer Program on Math Achievement and Algebra Readiness

Saturday, November 4, 2017
Comiskey (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Jason Snipes, Chun-Wei Huang, Karina Jaquet and Neal Finkelstein, WestEd

Success in middle school math is a key predictor of students’ success in high school and beyond. Middle school math coursetaking and success have clear consequences for the extent to which students reach advanced math courses—such as precalculus, calculus, trigonometry, or Advanced Placement math—before graduating from high school. Completing these advanced math courses can predict how well students are prepared for postsecondary-level math and whether they will be able to participate and succeed in regular college math courses without remediation or participation in developmental math courses. Mastering algebra is a critical step to enabling students to succeed in a college preparatory math sequence. But many students are unprepared to succeed in algebra, and they fail the course the first time they take it (Balfanz, McPartland, & Shaw, 2002; Finkelstein, Fong,Tiffany-Morales, Shields, & Huang, 2012; Huang, Snipes, & Finkelstein, 2014). The consequences of failing algebra can be considerable.

Elevate Math is a math support program designed by the Silicon Valley Education Foundation as part of its ongoing effort to help students succeed in middle school math and to master important math and science skills that are needed to succeed in college and the labor market. Though the program is a year-round effort, its core is an intensive 75-hour (19 days over four weeks) summer preparatory course. In summer 2014 the foundation, Regional Educational Laboratory West, and several Silicon Valley school districts collaborated on a randomized controlled trial to assess the effects of the Elevate Math summer program on math achievement, algebra readiness, and attitudes toward math. Students were randomly assigned to a treatment group that received access to the program at the beginning of the summer or to a control group that received access to the program later in the summer. End-of-program test scores and survey responses of students in the treatment group were compared with those of students in the control group prior to their exposure to the program.

The evaluation found that the Elevate Math summer program significantly improved math achievement and algebra readiness. Compared with students in the control group, students in the treatment group scored significantly higher (4 points, or 0.7 standard deviation) on a test of algebra readiness. Students in the treatment group were also significantly more likely (29 percent versus 12 percent) to reach achievement thresholds associated with success in algebra I. Despite significant positive effects from the program, most students were still not ready for algebra I content. On average, students in the treatment group still answered most items incorrectly on a test of algebra readiness (scoring 21 out of a possible 45). And only 29 percent of students in the treatment group reached an achievement level that would predict a better than 50 percent chance of succeeding in an algebra I course.