The Causal Effects of Advanced Mathematics Coursework

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 15:45
Oral Presentation
Andrew PENNER, UC Irvine, USA
We examine the causal effects of being placed on an advanced mathematics course trajectory using statewide administrative data from California schools. Using a novel approach to identifying schools with discontinuities in the odds of student course placement based on prior achievement, we use a regression discontinuity design to estimate the effects of advanced course placement in several hundred schools. We combine estimates from these schools using meta-analysis, finding that on average advanced math course placements boost later achievement by roughly .10 standard deviations. There was considerable variation in the size of the estimated effects, with smaller effects in lower achieving schools and schools with more students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Our results thus suggest that taking an advanced mathematics course helps students in advantaged schools, but that as currently implemented advanced mathematics coursework in lower achieving disadvantaged schools may not yield the benefits that one would hope for.