Implications for Math Course Placement in the Middle Grades and Preparation for Postsecondary Education


  • April 3, 2012
  • Silicon Valley Education Foundation
    1400 Parkmoor Avenue, #200
    San Jose, CA 95126



About 75 district administrators, site administrators, and math teachers from the 11 districts participating in the Silicon Valley Research Alliance, as well as other alliance partners including county office of education staff and foundation leaders, met on April 3 to engage in discussion about implications of current research and data from their own districts for district math placement policies.

The following were stated goals of the four-hour event:

  • Based on research, participants understand the role of algebra in eighth grade in the course trajectory from middle to high school and the impact on preparation for postsecondary education.
  • Participants understand how alliance districts have responded to research findings in their revisions of math placement policies, student support, and teacher professional development.
  • Participants explore the impact and needs related to structural and instructional aspects of math placement, student support, and teacher professional development in the middle grades.

Following a presentation of current research by Neal Finkelstein, REL West Senior Research Scientist, representatives of two participating districts shared policies, procedures, and practices affecting student math placement, student support, and teacher professional development in their districts.

After the presentations, high school administration and math staff met with their counterparts from their feeder middle schools. Each team had data to discuss regarding their middle school's math placement statistics in the high school. Throughout the next hour, teams engaged in conversation about the processes, structures, and obstacles to appropriately place middle school students in math. Discussion also included how middle schools could better articulate with the high school to ensure proper placement of ninth grade students.

Based on the activity, teams discussed potential structural and instructional changes that would improve middle and high school educational outcomes. The ideas generated will feed into future alliance planning sessions.

The seminar was the first in a series designed to share alliance work and build teacher capacity to understand and use data to inform their practice.


For more information about this event, please contact Neal Finkelstein,, 415.615.3171.