College Preparatory Curriculum for All: Consequences of Ninth-Grade CourseTaking in Algebra and English on Academic Outcomes in Chicago

December, 2008
Elaine Allensworth, Takako Nomi, Nicholas Montgomery, and Valerie E. Lee

There is a national movement to universalize the high-school curriculum so that all students graduate prepared for college. Here we evaluate a policy in Chicago that ended remedial classes and mandated college-preparatory coursework for all students. Using an interrupted time-series cohort design with multiple comparisons, we found that the policy reduced inequities in ninth grade coursework by entering ability, race/ethnicity, and special education status. Although more students completed ninth grade with credits in Algebra and English I, failure rates increased, grades declined slightly, test scores did not improve, and students were no more likely to enter college. Although few benefits resulted from universalizing college preparatory coursework among ninth graders, neither did dropout rates increase. Possible explanations are discussed.

This paper was published in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, December 2009, Volume 31(4), pages 367 - 391

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