NWEA Shares New Guidance to Help Schools Better Identify Students Ready for Algebra 1

A universally administered indicator of readiness is a key starting marker in making placement decisions, especially in identifying traditionally underrepresented students

Portland, Ore. — April 30, 2024 NWEA, a K-12 assessment and research organization, announced today new guidance for schools to support them in more equitably identifying students who may be ready for Algebra 1. Beyond this course being a requirement in most states for high school graduation, Algebra 1 is a gateway toward more advanced mathematics courses, and passing the course is often used as a predictor of future college success and career readiness.

Determining readiness for Algebra 1 can be complex. Common placement decisions may rely on subjective methods, such as teacher recommendations or students completing a grade level. Students may be misidentified (meaning they are not ready), or they may not be identified at all if the approach to placement unintentionally excludes potentially ready students. This new guidance is designed to help navigate these complexities by stressing the importance of a universally administered indicator of readiness as a starting place in the decision process.

“Students turning 13 or 14 years old is not an automatic marker that they are ready to take Algebra 1. We know that in any given classroom, the academic variances present can range multiple grades,” said Dr. Scott Peters, the author of the guide and Director of Research Consulting Partnerships at NWEA. “This guide offers an objective start to help educators make those placement decisions beyond just a student’s grades or grade level completed. It’s also a door opener for traditionally underrepresented students often overlooked for higher-level math courses because those placement decisions don’t include something like a universally administered indicator of readiness at the start.”

The new guide focuses on how districts using MAP Growth—a widely used interim assessment developed by NWEA—can leverage its data to help identify students who may potentially be ready for Algebra 1. The research behind the guide looked at what score in the MAP Growth 6+ Math test predicts students scoring proficient on a state’s end-of-course Algebra 1 exam or being successful in an Algebra 1 course. The guide also provides schools placement considerations and approaches based on their goal for Algebra 1, whether that’s to increase demographic representation, greater success in the course or providing more students the opportunity to take the course.

Read the guide at https://www.nwea.org/resource-center/resource/when-are-students-ready-for-algebra-1

About NWEA

NWEA® (a division of HMH) is a mission-driven organization that supports students and educators in more than 146 countries through research, assessment solutions, policy and advocacy services, professional learning and school improvement services that fight for equity, drive classroom impact and push for systemic change in our educational communities. Visit NWEA.org to learn more about how we’re partnering with educators to help all kids learn.

Contact: Simona Beattie, Communications Director, simona.beattie@nwea.org or 971.361.9526