Effective tracking: accuracy of 8th grade mathematics placement

This study investigates the accuracy of the tools used by a Southern California school district in placing 7th grade students into an 8th grade Algebra 1 course. The school records of 107 current 8th grade Algebra students were analyzed. The students' 7th grade Pre-Algebra grades and 7th grade scores on the MDTP (Mathematics Diagnostic Testing Project) placement test were compared to the success of these same students in gth grade Algebra 1. Success was determined on the basis of Algebra 1 final grades as well as results on the district wide end-of-course exam. The data was analyzed statistically using correlation and regression models to determine the accuracy of 7th grade Pre-Algebra grades and student scores on the MDTP placement test as predictors of student success in gth grade Algebra 1. The results show that students' grades in 7th grade Pre-Algebra were a better predictor of student success in gth grade Algebra 1 than scores on the 7th grade MDTP placement test. In addition, multiple regression analysis showed that a combined contribution of both predictors had stronger predicting power than either predictor used individually. These findings indicate a need to look into the overall value of placement tests at the middle school level. Keywords: Algebra 1, middle school, placement tests, student placement, tracking