Is course acceleration a good-for-all policy? (Best Evidence in Brief)

There is a new Best Evidence in Brief and this time I picked this study from this biweekly newsletter:

Is exposing students to course acceleration the best way to help their skills acquisition? Recently RAND Corporation’s Andrew McEachin and his colleagues investigated the impact of enrolling in advanced math courses on students’ achievement and heterogeneity across schools.
Hundreds of California middle schools use 7th-grade test scores to place students into 8th-grade algebra, but placement thresholds vary across schools. This study used such a scenario to estimate causal effects via a regression discontinuity (RD) design using 7th-grade algebra scores from the California Standards Test (CST) across 510 schools. Results suggest that enrolling in 8th-grade algebra increased students’ math scores by 0.05 SD and ELA by 0.34 SD on the 10th grade California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) tests. Further, the likelihood of students’ enrollment in advanced math in 9th and 11th grade rose by 30% and 16% when compared to their non-accelerated peers, with underserved students gaining the most from placement into early algebra.

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