How many middle school students are taking (and succeeding at) Algebra 1 in your school district? In little Lafayette County, it’s a lot.

During the school year that just ended, Lafayette County High School (which houses grades 6-12) had 96 8th graders – and 71 of them took Algebra 1 and the state’s end-of-course exam in that subject this spring. Fifty-six of those students passed the exam, making little Lafayette County (the US Census Bureau estimated a population of 8,732 on July 1, 2018) the number one district in Florida for middle school Algebra 1 this year.

To rank the districts, we used the results of the state’s Algebra 1 EOC (which were posted on Friday by the Florida Department of Education) and the numbers of 7th and 8th graders in each district to calculate the numbers of 7th and 8th graders that passed the exam as percentages of the total 7th and 8th grade membership in each district. Then we added those two percentages up to calculate the middle school Algebra 1 index and ranked the districts, as can be seen below.

Lafayette County didn’t offer Algebra 1 to its 7th graders, but 56 of its 96 8th graders (or 58%) passed the end-of-course exam. So the district’s index is 58 – Florida’s top score. Collier County was last year’s number one district and was second this year. Sarasota, Seminole and Brevard Counties round out the top five. The ranking of all of Florida’s school districts is shown below.

In addition to being rural, Lafayette County (which is located east of Perry and west of Lake City and Alachua) has economic challenges. Nearly all (92%) of the district’s students are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch. Lafayette County demonstrates that socioeconomic challenges don’t doom a district to poor math performance.

In fact, Lafayette isn’t the only district with a high lunch eligibility rate in which middle schoolers performed well on the Algebra 1 EOC, as the plot of the middle school Algebra 1 index vs. the free and reduced-price lunch eligibility rate below shows.

Students who take Algebra 1 in middle school are on track to take a calculus course in high school. The American Society for Engineering Education recommends that students who might choose a college major in engineering take a calculus course in high school.

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