Project AAIMS: Improving Outcomes for Vital Skills

Developing Proficiency

Algebra is a vital skill that is associated with improved outcomes in both employment and postsecondary education. Students with high incidence disabilities, like other low-achieving students, need to develop proficiency with algebra if they are to have access to the advantages it brings. Across the four years of Project AAIMS, we worked with 19 general and special education teachers of algebra and over 1,200 secondary students in three partner school districts.

Providing a Critical Foundation

The work that was conducted in Project AAIMS provides a critical foundation for future work exploring effective algebra instructional models for students with disabilities and other low-achieving students. We are committed to pursuing knowledge about teaching, learning, and assessment that will enable students who are currently unsuccessful in algebra to develop proficiency in algebraic thinking and have opportunities to access the advantages of advanced education and career options that algebra proficiency offers.

The First Strand

The first strand of AAIMS activities examined the alignment of algebra curriculum, instruction, and assessment in general and special education. To accomplish this goal we conducted observations in algebra classrooms, interviewed algebra teachers and school administrators, reviewed district documents, and examined existing student outcome data. These data are presented in AAIMS Technical Reports 1, 3, 4, 5, 8, and 9. The culmination of this work is a set of three case studies describing the status of algebra curriculum, instruction, and assessment for students with and without disabilities in each of our partner districts.

The Second Strand

The second strand of AAIMS activities addressed the development and validation of a set of assessment tools that can be used in both general and special education settings to support increased student achievement for students with and without disabilities. To accomplish this goal, we piloted and refined five potential measures for assessing student performance and progress in algebra. The initial studies examined the reliability and criterion validity of the measures. These studies are presented in Technical Reports 2, 6, 7, and 10. Following these initial studies, subsequent studies explored the extent to which three of the initial measures were sensitive to changes in student performance over time and, as a result, useful for monitoring growth in algebra learning. These studies are presented in Technical Reports 11, 12, 13, and 14. In the final year of the project, teachers in the participating school districts helped us examine whether information from the measures could be used to support teachers' instructional decision-making and ultimately enhance the learning of students who are struggling. These studies are presented in Technical Reports 16 and 17.