Failure in the three foundational math classes, algebra, geometry, and algebra 2, can also be perceived as a major roadblock because, as many influential policy makers including California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger have declared, math is the “gateway” to college and higher-paying careers (Tucker, 2008). Research by the U.S. Department of Education explains how of all the high school courses, the highest level of mathematics taken is the most important for college success (Adelman, 1999).
“Algebra is the gateway to college and higher paying careers in a new technical world. ”
Unfortunately, failure or poor performance in foundational math classes such as algebra is a national epidemic facing urban secondary education and adversely impacting students of color. The National Assessment of Educational Progress states that the “overwhelming number of low-achieving students in algebra are black and Hispanic and attend big urban, high-poverty schools where they are more likely to fall through the cracks” (Loveless, 2008). Moreover, African American and Hispanic students are about twice as likely as whites and three times as likely as Asians to cease their math careers at the lower level of algebra (Adelman, 1999).
Out of 48,000 students, LAUSD in 2006 handed out Ds and Fs to 29,000 beginning algebra students — enough to fill eight high schools in L.A
While the epidemic of poor performance for urban youth in the “gateway” course exists statewide, it is especially exacerbated in urban districts like LAUSD where the student population is 73% Latino and 11% African American. Research by the U.S. Department of Education indicates that the single greatest predictor of college preparedness and successful college completion is the taking of high level mathematics courses during high school (Adelman, 1999).
- Helfand, 2007
“80% of the CA prison population did not graduate from high school.”
- Schargel, 2001
“...overwhelming number of low-achieving students in algebra are black and Hispanic and attend big urban, high-poverty schools where they are
more likely to fall through the cracks”
The failure in foundational math classes for urban students of color is seen in the fact that only between 8 and 10% of African American and Latino students in California were proficient in algebra based on the 2008 California Standardized Test of Algebra (Education Trust, 2008). Overall, 65% of African American students and 60% of Latino students who took algebra scored below the basic level on the California Standards Test in Algebra. By contrast, 65% of white students and 80% of Asian students who took algebra scored at the basic level or above (Education Trust, 2008).
“Mathematics is clearly the remedial course with the highest enrollment (77%). The content ranges from basic arithmetic up to intermediate algebra ”
- National Center for Education Statistics, 2003
The achievement gap is also seen in relation to income. In the state of California, low income students performed worse than high income students. 60% of students in low income families were below basic in Algebra. On the other hand, 62% of economically advantaged students were above basic.
This statewide epidemic of urban math failure also adversely affects students at Grant Union High School in Sacramento, CA. In the midst of consistent algebra failure at Grant High School, I have been able to achieve different results with low income urban students in algebra. My students have consistently outperformed thousands in the district.
I have used specific strategies that have helped the majority of my once low-performing students to succeed in algebra and perform at a basic and higher level of mastery and outperform their peers throughout the entire Twin Rivers District and state of California. The strategies I have used have been integrated into an instructional model called C.R.E.A.T.E.
This model emphasizes pedagogical practices that are grounded in research and have proven to be successful in my classroom. For the purposes of this study, the students who are taught under the C.R.E.A.T.E. model will be referred to as the C.R.E.A.T.E. students.