College Preparatory Curriculum for All: Academic Consequences of Requiring Algebra and English I for Ninth Graders in Chicago

December, 2009
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. The present work evaluates a policy in Chicago that ended remedial classes and mandated college preparatory course work for all students. Based on an interrupted time-series cohort design with multiple comparisons, this study found that the policy reduced inequities in ninth grade course work 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 slightly declined, test scores did not improve, and students were no more likely to enter college. In sum, few benefits resulted from universalizing college preparatory course work among freshmen, but dropout rates did not increase. Possible explanations are discussed.

The final, definitive version of this paper has been published in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 31(4), December 2009 by SAGE Publications Ltd./SAGE Publications, Inc., All rights reserved. © 2009

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