Evaluating the Relationships Between Science Class Success and Math Placement in High School


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Evaluating the Relationships Between Science Class Success and Math Placement in High School is a well-researched Thesis/Dissertation topic, it is to be used as a guide or framework for your Academic Research.


In order for students to perform well in science, they need opportunities to develop formal reasoning. Teachers in a private school in Latin America noted that students who had not yet completed Algebra I were struggling in a 9th-grade chemistry course more than their classmates who had completed Algebra I.

The purpose of this causal, comparative action research was to determine if math placement was key to supporting student success in science. Data on achievement, as indicated by final exam scores in math, science, and English, were used from the cohort of students enrolled in 9th grade in 2015 and in 10th grade in 2016. A repeated measures ANOVA was used to determine if there was a difference in science achievement between students on an accelerated pathway and students on a nonaccelerated pathway.

Spearman’s Rio was used to determine if science achievement was correlated with math and English. It was found that there was a significant difference in science achievement for students on different pathways, as well as significant differences in achievement between the 2015 and 2016 school years. Additionally, it was found that both math and science and English and math had similar correlations. It was concluded that math provides significant opportunities to practice formal reasoning that is important for success in science.

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Science and math are subjects that challenge many students, but successful completion of science and math correlates positively with future participation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses in undergraduate work and beyond (Hansen, 2014). Success as a ninth grader is indicative of future academic success, and early success in science leads to future interest and self-efficacy in science (McDowell, 2013; Palmer, 2004).

Given the significance of achievement in math and science, and in particular, during the ninth grade, it is important that school leaders provide courses enabling students to achieve accomplishments upon which they can build future success (McCallumore & Sarapani, 2010).

Math may be the key to cognitive development for student success in high-level sciences such as chemistry, biology, and physics (Joyce, Hine, & Anderson, 2017). Students who struggle in Algebra I are required to apply algebraic thinking to their science class, which may compound frustrations and feelings of failure (Larkin, 2016).

Success in ninth grade is foundational to future academic success and experiencing competence in math and science also increases a student’s interest in STEM fields (Demirci, 2013; McDowell, 2013). When students in science take courses beyond their cognitive ability, they internalize the failure and identify as someone who is bad at science (Demirci, 2013).

It is imperative that school leaders create a pathway the gives students every chance to succeed while challenging them appropriately to grow. To create these opportunities, school leaders must understand the factors that influence student success.

The leadership team at a nonprofit college preparatory school in Latin America gathered feedback from teachers, students, and parents and identified that the current science pathway did not provide opportunities for all students to be successful. This school enrolls about 400 students in the high school division.

The teaching, counseling, and administrative staff observed that a significant number of students struggle in science and do not participate in science electives in substantial numbers. The graduation requirements for science are chemistry, biology, and physics.

The chemistry course is taken by students in ninth grade, with about two-thirds of the students taking it concurrently with Algebra I. Math and science are the two classes in ninth grade with the highest failure rates, which this school defines as a year-long average below 60%. This failure rate raised concern among the stakeholders in the community, and further investigation is needed.

The leadership in the school approached the science department where the teaching staff indicated that students in all three science courses displayed a reverse bell curve, meaning that there was a group of students who did very well, students who struggled to maintain a passing score of 60%, and very few students in between these two groups

. Teachers at the school indicated that this phenomenon seemed to correlate with students’ math placement. Students who concurrently enrolled in Algebra I and chemistry struggled in chemistry, whereas those who completed Algebra I in eighth grade tended to be more successful in chemistry. Science teachers also reported this phenomenon did not resolve as students moved into biology and then onto physics.

While there was no apparent explicit need for Algebra I or geometry to be successful in biology, these students continued to struggle. A lack of participation in advanced placement sciences and science electives also existed.

Despite an abundance of science elective courses offered and sufficient flexibility in the schedule for electives, there was not enough student interest in these courses. Participation in these advanced classes would provide a path that leads
students to enroll in and complete an undergraduate degree in a STEM-related area.

Greater and more successful participation in science courses benefits both the students, who have the potential to enter a rewarding and lucrative career, as well as universities who are looking to add underrepresented groups to their programs (Redmond-Sanogo, Angle, & Davis, 2016).

Given that most of the student body at this school in Latin America is Hispanic, improving how the school organizes science instruction and the course sequence could increase the diversity of students entering STEM fields professionally (Redmond-Sanogo et al., 2016). Successfully preparing students to enter STEM disciplines would also enhance the reputation of the school.


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