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TNLI: Action Research: Curriculum Implementation: The Implications of Basic Math Class Required Learnings on the Graduation Rates of Basic Math Students


Research Summary


What would happen if you required your freshman and sophomore basic math students to correctly complete a set number of tutorial software problems each day, and to pass 36 standard quizzes, 60% or better, and they would fail them if they did not do these required learnings?

I did this, and surprisingly, as I began to require more of my students, the pass/fail ratios in my classes seemed to stay the same! I wanted to know for sure if the same percentage of students was succeeding, even though more was required of them. So, I researched the following questions: Does passing as evidenced by an A, B, or C, grade, my high school basic math class that includes “required learnings”, transfer to passing in the pre-algebra and algebra level math classes? Does this lead to passing the CAHSEE (California High School Exit Exam)? I wondered, would these high expectations and the help in accomplishing them facilitate these students to be successful in their next math class, and in passing algebra? Would successful basic math students have enough units of math to graduate? Did the required learnings, and success in accomplishing them, lead students to successfully graduate?

Two types of data were collected. I collected student transcripts to review data about student math grades, credits, and passing he CAHSEE. I also interviewed students too find out what they felt helped them be successful, and what they had learning in Basic Math. Successful students were randomly chosen to answer questions about how they did in their math classes and how what they learned in Basic Math helped them. All students interviewed mentioned “redoing” quizzes or homework or doing work until it’s right as something that helped them either in their math classes or in their other classes. The “required learnings” and help in redoing work to learn them, was part of their success. Some student also mentioned that the review and/or computer helped them in their next math classes.

From the student transcripts I received, I was able to determine that 35 of 54 (65%) students who passed basic math were on track for graduation. Twenty-eight out of 30 passed Algebra), and all 47 passed pre-algebra. Only 41% (averaged over the last three years) of my basic math students passed my class, this is about the same rate of passing (less than half have traditionally passed) as before implementing the required learnings. The English Language Learners had a slightly better passing rate than the total class with 51% and the resource students were the least successful at only 20%. Overall, about 27% of the basic math students from those three school years are on track for graduation. Did the required learnings and passing basic math help them? Yes, 65 % passed their next math class, algebra, math high school exit exam, and had enough units to graduate!

These conclusions lead me to recommend the following policies:

  1. All classes should have standards-based required learnings. Students should be taught and expected to redo their work for correctness and be allowed to re-take the assessments for these learnings.
  2. As part of professional development, all content area teachers should be trained to teach and to promote mastery learning through re-doing incorrect work and tests, in a positive, supportive manner. How to manage this approach in a mixed-ability class should also be included.
  3. Alternate programs that allow for students at the basic math level in the high school to receive the attention they need, should be developed for students who are not successful in basic math, in an effort to reduce their dropout rate.
  4. Further research should be done to find out why students who did pass basic math were behind in units (i.e., failed classes in other content areas), in order to determine what can be done to support these students toward completing their high school graduation requirements.

Paragraph Summary:
Do students who successfully pass basic math in high school (which requires passing 36 number-sense standards from the 4th and 5th grade levels and a minimum number of computer software tutorial problems) go on to complete a year of Algebra, pass the Math California High School Exit Exam and meet the graduation requirements? This research looks at the low-achieving basic math student at the high school level and includes English Language Learners and special education students. Students have required learnings and redo their work as part of the standard based curriculum. Staff development, leadership development, and teaching for master are recommendations for teachers.


Shelley Klein teaches math at Santa Maria High School in Santa Maria, California. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Petroleum Engineering from USC. She is highly qualified with physical science, mathematics, and multiple subjects teaching credentials along with being Nationally Board Certified in Early Adolescence Mathematics, a teacher researcher through CEMSE (Center for Equity in Math and Science Education), a MetLife Fellow, and a trained Integrated Mathematics Program teacher. This is her 16th year of teaching, and her third teacher research project.


Shelley Klein

Research Focus:
Math Skills

TNLI Affiliate:
Santa Barbara County, CA

Santa Maria High School
901 S. Broadway
Santa Maria, CA 93454

If you would like to learn more about Teachers Network Leadership Institute, please e-mail Kimberly Johnson for more information.



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