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Looking at the Impact of our K-12 Courses

Through our work in K-12 mathematics and science, academic mindsets, and learning strategies, the Dana Center aims to position students for success in postsecondary education.

Read about some of the internal and external evaluations that examined the impact of the Dana Center’s K-12 courses.


Transition to College Mathematics

Transition to College Mathematics (TCM) is an innovative high school mathematics course designed by the Dana Center to develop students’ quantitative, statistical, and algebraic reasoning abilities. The year-long course mirrors current trends in higher education and prepares students for college success in multiple mathematics pathways.

In addition to rigorous mathematics content, this model course embeds lessons integrating concepts from the learning sciences to help students acquire the non-cognitive skills and strategies necessary to succeed in mathematics in high school, in college, and beyond.

Noncognitive skills (e.g., self-regulation, persistence, and self-efficacy) are taught to students through hands-on activities and interactive online content. Although students work on developing these skills within a mathematics context, they are applicable across academic domains.

Impact of Transition to College Mathematics

During the 2016-17 school year, the TCM course was implemented across 18 high schools in nine districts in central and east Texas, involving 21 teachers and reaching over 600 students. The evaluation was designed to determine whether there were changes in students’ learning mindsets and strategies over the year-long TCM course and whether students became college ready from taking the TCM course.

Overall, students reported positive experiences in the course, indicating the course positively influenced their plans to attend college and enhanced their understanding of and attitudes toward mathematics. Across all districts, 61% of the students who participated in the TCM course met college readiness in mathematics. This percentage is considerably higher than would be expected for the high-needs students who would qualify to take the TCM course.

Results showed that students’ use of noncognitive skills increased during the first half of the year and remained stable during the second half of the year. No differences in noncognitive skills were observed between students of different gender, ethnicity, or geographic region.

Upcoming Reports on Transition to College Mathematics

The Dana Center is currently following the first cohort of TCM students into college to determine whether they enroll in and successfully complete their first college-level math course within two years of beginning college. In addition, we are investigating the college-readiness outcomes for the second cohort of TCM students and will follow them into college in the coming years. Findings for the second cohort of TCM students will be available fall 2018. The first report of postsecondary outcomes for the first cohort of TCM students will be available fall 2019.


Intensified Algebra

Intensified Algebra (IA) is a comprehensive, double-period course designed to help students who are one to three years behind in mathematics re-engage as motivated learners and achieve success in Algebra I within a single academic year. The intervention arms teachers and learners with cohesive, integrated resources, including a challenging but well-scaffolded curriculum, protocols to optimize instructional time, and strategies to build students’ engagement, confidence, and commitment to learning.

Impact of Intensified Algebra

In 2015-16, a series of case studies were conducted to determine the impact of IA on students’ math achievement. In Las Cruces Public Schools, Las Cruces, New Mexico, students who took IA scored higher on Algebra I Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) than students who took traditional algebra. Also, IA students were four times more likely than traditional Algebra I students to meet expectations on the PARCC.

IA students at York County School of Technology in York, Pennsylvania had a passing rate five times higher on the Pennsylvania Keystone Exam than students who took traditional Algebra I.

In Newark Public Schools in Newark, New Jersey, 39% of students who participated in IA achieved an improvement of one or more levels over their prior-year performance on the PARCC, while 37% of higher-achieving students who participated in traditional Algebra gained one or more levels.

At Hillsborough County Public Schools in Florida, passing scores on the Algebra end-of-course exam for IA students were more than double those of students who took traditional Algebra.

Upcoming Reports on Intensified Algebra

Currently, researchers at the Learning Sciences Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and American Institutes for Research (AIR) are conducting a study assessing the impact of Intensified Algebra on student outcomes. The study is taking place in 55 public high schools in six districts in Polk County, Florida and Virginia Beach, Virginia. In this study, students were randomly assigned to either IA or “business-as-usual” Algebra. Researchers will determine the impact of IA on:

  • Students’ short-term and longer-term math course-taking patterns;
  • Students’ engagement, motivation, and confidence in mathematics; and
  • The gap between IA students’ and their on-track peers in terms of math course-taking.

They will also determine whether impact differs for students with different background characteristics (e.g., prior math and reading achievement, socioeconomic status, gender, and race/ethnicity). Preliminary results are expected fall 2018.


Academic Youth Development

Academic Youth Development (AYD) is an educational program that translates the latest research on student motivation, persistence, social-emotional learning (SEL), and understanding of intelligence into practical strategies that can transform how students transition to and succeed in high school.

AYD helps educators and learners understand, develop, and extend SEL skills and competencies, through explicit instruction and application in academic situations. Since its inception, AYD has been implemented in more than 500 schools across 13 states.

Impact of Academic Youth Development

In 2014-15, a series of case studies were conducted to determine the impact of AYD on students’ behaviors and beliefs about themselves as learners and whether participating in AYD impacts students’ achievement in mathematics.

Participating schools found that participating in AYD led to positive changes in students’ understanding of their intelligence and their ability to achieve in mathematics.

After participating in AYD, students in Evanston, Illinois achieved a 12-point increase and 85% met growth targets on the math Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment; students who did not participate in AYD achieved a 6-point increase on the math MAP.

In Fremont Union High School District in Cupertino, California, evaluators found that fewer AYD students repeated Algebra I and more enrolled in Geometry than non-AYD students.

In Boston Public Schools in Boston, MA, evaluators found that twice as many AYD students as non-AYD students earned an “A” in Algebra.


College Readiness Math Initiative (CRMI)

In fall 2014, College Spark Washington launched the College-Ready Math Initiative (CRMI) to increase students’ math skills, reduce college remediation rates, improve math instruction, and strengthen advisory programs. As part of this effort, College Spark identified three programs developed by the Dana Center and Agile Mind, Inc., School-Year Academic Youth Development (SY-AYD)Intensified Algebra (IA), and An Educator’s Course in Academic Youth Development (E-AYD).

Key to IA and SY-AYD’s foundation is psychological research indicating that courses integrating cognitive (i.e., rich academic content) and noncognitive (i.e., motivational) aspects of learning are highly effective for improving academic achievement. Noncognitive factors describe the mindsets, beliefs, strategies, and behaviors impacting students’ motivation and success in school and beyond.

Impact of Academic Youth Development and Intensified Algebra

The evaluation measures changes in student and teacher mindsets over time, determines the impact of changes in students’ mindsets on achievement in mathematics, and measures long-term mathematics education outcomes of middle and high school students 1-2 years after they took IA or AYD.

Although the evaluation is in its formative stage, we recently reported on preliminary student outcomes. Results from the 2016-17 academic year indicated that Intensified Algebra had a small positive impact on students’ perceptions of engagement, metacognition, and belonging at the end of the school year. Academic Youth Development had a strong positive impact on students’ perceptions of engagement, metacognition, and belonging at the end of the school year.

In addition, for middle school students who participated in AYD, self-efficacy and belonging significantly predicted scores on the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) in math—the higher the ratings on self-efficacy and belonging, the higher their SBA math scores.

Upcoming Reports on CRMI

We just concluded the third year for Cohort I schools and the second year for Cohort II schools. Cohort III schools begin their first year this year, 2018-19. In fall 2018, we will report on social-emotional learning outcomes for Cohort I and II students. In summer 2019, we will report on the impact of changes in students’ mindsets on their math achievement.