Funded by the National Science Foundation
Taskforce Definition of Success

The members of the taskforce have developed a three-part definition of "success" in Elementary Algebra course with respect to completion and persistence for:

  1. Students
  2. Faculty
  3. Institutions

Success, while open to multiple interpretations, was limited by the Taskforce to the following:

  1. Improvements in student success rates in Elementary Algebra
  2. Improvement in faculty development
  3. Increases in institutional performance; all resulting from the development of effective 'best practices' initiated by the faculty
Increases in institutional performance; all resulting from the development of effective 'best practices' initiated by the faculty.

Student Success:

The State of California has defined success as the proportion of students receiving a grade of A, B, C, or CR when compared to the final roster(s) of all students receiving A, B, C, D, F, CR, NC, W, or Incomplete. Students included in the count consist of all those enrolled as of the first census date (end of the add/drop period). Significant increases in this proportion are interpreted as 'success'. While a useful indicator, the Taskforce concluded that by itself, this definition does not indicate 'student learning'. Therefore, the ability to 'pass' Elementary Algebra provides only a partial answer to the question of 'student success'.

The more central question for these students is whether successful completion of Elementary Algebra provides a sufficient knowledge base for success in subsequent courses required by specific educational goals. These goals may be the completion of higher level mathematics courses, completion of a certification program, attainment of an AA/AS degree, or completion of a course for which Elementary Algebra is a prerequisite.

For this reason, the Taskforce has concluded that student success can be best captured using three measures, as appropriate to the goal(s) of the student:

  • passing grade in Elementary Algebra
  • persistence in mathematics
  • subsequent course performance in courses for which Elementary Algebra is a prerequisite
The Taskforce believes that student attempts/success in subsequent mathematics courses represents the single best indicator of both the degree of preparation provided by the initial training in Elementary Algebra and the extent to which changes in pedagogy/content resulted in increased student confidence and ability.

Faculty Success:

Faculty success results from the ability of the individual faculty member (or groups of faculty) to develop or adapt proven programs or strategies and verify improvement in their student's success rate. This requires both professional development and support which together are anticipated to increase both the rate of active participation in the change process and the degree to which individual faculty persists in efforts to effect that change. Equally important are increases in instructor satisfaction due to program participation and the incremental improvements in course content and delivery resulting from effective programs.

Faculty success also may be measured by an increase in the percentage of their elementary algebra students who pass the course each semester and continue on to achieve their intended goal from those elementary algebra classes where they were exposed to some new strategy, content, pedagogical approach, or intervention.

Institutional Success:

Definitions of Institutional success include traditional measures, such as:

  • student retention
  • number of AA/AS degrees granted
  • certificates awarded
  • persistence
  • rate of transfer to other segments of the educational system

Other measures considered by the Taskforce include the degree to which implementation of successful programs improves institutional recruitment efforts by improving the performance of transfer students, actual transfer rates, and employment prospects.

Student Success

From the AMATYC membership
  1. cumulative GPA
  2. improved attitude towards math
  3. student's ability to use the math in their job grade in current course
  4. grade in subsequent course
  5. retention
  6. persistence (continues despite a substandard grade)
  7. improved study skills
  8. completion of the student's goals
From the CMC3 and CMC3-S membership
  1. The student received a C or better
  2. The student is more enthusiastic about math
  3. The student is less fearful of math
  4. The student passed a state wide standardized test
  5. The student is successful in their next class
  6. The student is a better critical thinker
  7. The student is successful in a course for which Beginning Algebra is a prerequisite (This may not be a math course)
  8. Using the student evaluations, the student feels that they have been successful
  9. The student has the confidence to take a higher math course, and does take the course
  10. The student asks if the instructor is teaching the next course
  11. The student has gained a greater appreciation for mathematics
  12. The student kept the book
What are the main factors contributing to student's lack of success in beginning algebra?
  1. personal life issues
  2. lack of reading skills
  3. lack of preparedness
  4. lack of time management skills
  5. financial concerns
  6. math anxiety
  7. lack of motivation
  8. national culture - 'It's fine to not be able to do math!'
  9. unenforceable prerequisites
  10. test anxiety
  11. lackof interest and/or appreciation
  12. lack of study skills
  13. time spent on course - 'seat time' does not equal 'success'