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Discriminant Analysis of High School Student Mathematics Class Placement

 Discriminant Analysis of High School Student Mathematics Class Placement

 

Simon King, Teacher – Cary Academy/Texas A&M University

A crucial decision that affects the academic future of many middle and high school students is the level of mathematics class in which they are placed. This decision effectively decides whether they can take high school calculus or statistics as seniors. School mathematics departments place students into math classes on the basis of teacher recommendation. The purpose of this study was to explore high school student mathematics class placement through discriminant analysis. Standardized testing scores and class grades were used to assess teacher placements of students into 7th grade and 9th grade mathematics classes (Algebra I, Geometry, Geometry Honors and Algebra II Honors). A logistic discriminant analysis was used. Data exploration visually demonstrated a large number of students who “overlapped” two potential class placements. On exploration of individual student logit probabilities and visual representation of the data, it becomes clear that many decisions are marginal. While standardized testing helps us paint a useful picture of a student and his or her potential future academic success, it is unlikely to paint a complete picture. The missing piece is the teacher’s knowledge of the recommended student, as well as other variables that affect that student’s success and mathematics placement. These extra variables include but are not limited to work ethic, commitment to learning and communication skills. Additionally, JMP visuals were utilized to present information to parents, teachers and school administrators with limited statistical backgrounds.

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