Purpose. The purpose of this study is to document sixth-grade mathematics mastery as measured by the seventh-grade Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP) over a period of 3 years: 2005, 2006, and 2007. This study investigated whether mathematics performance in Michigan is related to ethnicity by analyzing student responses on the seventh-grade MEAP which evaluates students’ mastery of the Michigan sixth-grade mathematics expectations.
Method. Data from the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) containing the student scores of individual test items on the mathematics Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP) for seventh-grade students in Michigan for 2005 to 2007 formed the basis for this secondary data analysis. Michigan’s seventh-grade students’ mastery of the sixth-grade-level content expectations (GLCEs) on the mathematics portion of the MEAP test given at the beginning of each school year is the focus of this descriptive analysis with a group comparison design. Out of 44 sixth-grade-level mathematics expectations, 14 GLCEs (seven algebra and seven non-algebra) were identified for analysis in this study. Due to the small sample sizes, all Future Core and Extended Core expectations were excluded. Three of the 10 Core Number and Operations GLCEs were selected as being foundational to transitioning to algebra. Of the three Core geometry GLCEs, one (G.TR.6.04—Composition of transformations) was eliminated as being too similar to the expectation on understanding transformations in a plane. All Core algebra GLCEs were included for analysis. The three expectations that are classified as Not Assessed at the State Level were not included in the data received from the MDE and thus were not part of this study.
The following research questions were addressed by this project: 1. For the 2005, 2006, and 2007 mathematics MEAP test, what is the difference in the performance of Michigan seventh-grade students on the algebra GLCEs and their performance on the non-algebra GLCEs? 2. For the 2005, 2006, and 2007 mathematics MEAP test, what is the difference in the performance of the seventh-grade ethnic groups in Michigan on the algebra GLCEs and the non-algebra GLCEs?
Results. For the selected GLCEs, the major findings of this study in answer to Research Question 1 are: 1. There was no consistent improvement or decline in the mean of Michigan student scores on the individual sixth-grade algebra and non-algebra GLCEs from 2005– 2007. The combined algebra mean declined over the 3 years while the mean of the combined non-algebra expectations declined and then rose. 2. There were four algebra expectations and two non-algebra expectations for which the mean scores of Michigan seventh-grade students were not proficient each year from 2005–2007: a. A.PA.6.01 (Applied rate problems) b. A.FO.6.06 (Translating words into equations) c. A.FO.6.12 (Adding/subtracting the same value from equations) d. A.FO.6.13 (Multiplying/dividing the same value from equations) e. N.FL.6.14 (Estimating calculations done with rational numbers) f. G.TR.6.03 (Basic rigid transformations in a plane).
The mean scores of Michigan seventh-grade students were proficient on one algebra expectation from 2005–2007 (A.RP.6.02—Plot ordered pairs of integers on a coordinate plane). The mean scores of the combined algebra GLCEs and the combined non-algebra GLCEs were below proficiency for Michigan seventh-grade students from 2005–2007.
The major findings of this study concerning the selected GLCEs that answer Research Question 2 are: 1. There was no consistent improvement or decline in the mean of the scores of the four largest ethnic groups of Michigan students on the individual sixth-grade algebra and non-algebra GLCEs. There was no consistent improvement or decline in the mean of the combined algebra scores and the combined non-algebra scores of the four largest ethnic groups of Michigan students. 2. Student scores, rather than proficiency percentages that depend on cut scores, show that the achievement gap between ethnic groups remains essentially the same from year to year. 3. There was an algebra expectation (A.RP.6.02—Plotting ordered pairs of integers in the coordinate plane) and a non-algebra expectation (N.ME.6.17—Locating rational numbers on the number line) that differentiated ethnic subgroups.
Conclusion. From the results of how many mathematics expectations students are not mastering and from the persistence of the achievement gap between ethnic groups, educators have many challenges in using effective instruction, appropriate curriculum, and valid assessment in raising the mathematics achievement of all students.