Hello fellow educators,

I've been hearing a lot recently that many students struggle with Algebra 1 in the US. The dropout rate is supposedly very high and some educators argue that Algebra 1 and higher math should be pulled from the school system because it's just "too hard" for students.

Does anyone here know the actual failure rates of 9th graders in Algebra 1? I'm looking for anything recent within the past few years. Furthermore, how many students drop out of high school because they struggle in math? Any help is appreciated!


  • 4
    $\begingroup$ In an HGSE Harvard Education Letter it says: Many kids are failing algebra. In California, where standards call for Algebra I in grade 8, a 2011 EdSource report shows that nearly one-third of those who took the course—or 80,000 students—scored “below basic” or “far below basic.” In districts across the country, failure rates for Algebra I vary but run as high as 40 or 50 percent... $\endgroup$ Apr 5 '16 at 1:19
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ cf. EdSource on the California Standards Test (CST) Larger percentages of students in these grades score below or far below basic on math CSTs. Nearly three in ten 6th and 7th graders scored in these lowest categories in 2008, compared with just 16% of 4th graders (p. 2). $\endgroup$ Apr 5 '16 at 1:23
  • $\begingroup$ @BenjaminDickman What is HGSE? $\endgroup$
    – Andrew
    Apr 6 '16 at 14:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Harvard Graduate School of Education $\endgroup$
    – Wmol
    Apr 6 '16 at 14:50
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @BenjaminDickman Could you turn the comments into an answer? $\endgroup$
    – Tommi
    Dec 6 '18 at 19:21

For your first question, I don't have a general answer for you, but there is this for New York State.

On the 2015 Algebra I exam, which was supposed to align with the new Common Core curriculum, the percentage of students passing fell to 63 percent, down nine points from the old exam last year. New York Times, Nov. 2015

I would imagine there is more recent data to be found on this. My first hunt at answers might be here: NYS Information and Reporting Services.


Here is a study on it: https://digitalcommons.fiu.edu/dissertations/AAI3249717/

"Algebra I and other predictors of high school dropout"

A Google search on the two terms algebra and dropout reveals several other articles: https://www.google.com/search?q=algebra+dropout&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b-1-ab (I lack the status to post several links, but I clicked through to most of the articles on first page of the search and they seemed decent).

Your question statement discusses several other ideas than just wanting that number, but I think some issue analysis is needed to grapple with that (causation versus correlation, purpose of a high school degree, passing local grade versus passing a national test evaluation, failure first year versus later years, etc.). So I don't think just getting that number will resolve all that you are wondering about.

  • $\begingroup$ Usually on SE Math Educators posters include a summary of findings, for (a) convenience, and (b) in case any links go dead in the future. Could you please make an edit to add that? $\endgroup$ Dec 9 '18 at 1:04

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