R.E. Fernández

Stony Brook Brook University (UNITED STATES)
The purpose of this study was to determine whether the four years of mathematics policy adopted by some schools with high enrollment of ethnically underrepresented or economically disadvantaged students led to differences in the schools’ key-performance indicators. We wanted to understand how this policy affected the college preparedness and aspirations of Bronx County public high schools. Specific objectives were: 1) to carry out between group analyses to determine whether key performance indicators of Bronx County public high schools requiring four years of mathematics were comparable to those of Bronx County schools without this requirement,
2) To determine and compare the post-secondary aspirations of students in each of our public schools groups,
3) To provide research-based policy recommendations to school administrators and policy implementers in the New York State Education Department.

Utilizing aggregate data from the New York State Report Cards, we analyzed how key performance indicators of Bronx Public high schools differed based on whether or not schools implement a policy requiring the study or completion of four years of mathematics. We utilized descriptive statistics and t-tests to compare our two mutually exclusive groups of public high schools. We used descriptive statistics to carry-out comparative policy analyses and to contextualize how the four year policy affected implementing schools. Our data indicated that, on average, Bronx County’s high school population is high-minority, with over 90% of their student population being of Black or Hispanic ethnic backgrounds. Only 14 of the 105 Bronx public high schools included in our study implemented the four year policy. Schools implementing the policy surpassed non-implementing schools in all of the key performance indicators that we analyzed. Students attending schools implementing the policy achieved statistically significantly higher scores on the Comprehensive English, Living Environment, and Physics Regents exams. The Geometry and Algebra2/Trigonometry Regents exams passing and mastery rates of implementing schools are, respectively almost three, and more than six times higher than those of schools not implementing this policy. The Advanced Regents Diploma conferment rate of schools implementing the policy is, on average, about 1000% that of non-implementing schools. On average, graduates from schools implementing the policy aspire to higher education at a rate of 94%, while the average aspiration of graduates from non-implementing schools is 67.6%. Our results validated key findings of research studies and government reports suggesting that high school mathematics courses show the strongest returns when measuring students’ academic outcomes in high school (Nord et al., 2011) as well as their higher education aspirations and preparedness (Adelman, 1999; Tyson, Lee, Borman, & Hanson, 2007). Coupled with our literature review, our results advance the thesis that key performance indicators of Bronx County public high schools remain low due to a lack of intense mathematics course curricula. Our results validate the thesis that when schools hold their students accountable to higher mathematics standards, the schools’ key performance indicators increase significantly. The following policy recommendation are supported by our results:
1. Irrespective of schools’ social or ethnic backgrounds, their students should all be held accountable to higher mathematics standards by requiring them to complete a four year mathematics sequence that include advanced courses.
2. Schools should ensure a proper transition from 8th grade into 9th grade by properly implementing the New York State Common Core Standards of Mathematics.