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KC-AERC Researchers Awarded $249,000 to Study Problem with Math Student Placement

Kansas City, MO — The National Science Foundation has awarded a grant of $249,622 to Kansas State University to explore why students proficient in high school math courses are often enrolled in remedial math classes in college. This research project will be conducted by several researchers that are part of the Kansas City Area Education Research Consortium (KC-AERC). To unravel the problem, members of the KC-AERC will evaluate enrollment information from Kansas’ statewide databases including math assessment scores and student course-taking patterns in high school along with their college math placement scores and interest in STEM fields.

The principal investigators are Jacqueline Spears, a professor in the College of Education at Kansas State University (K-State), and Tamera Murdock, a professor and chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of Missouri – Kansas City (UMKC). Carolyn Barber from the College of Education at UMKC is a co-investigator on the project. All are members of the KC-AERC, which is composed of professors from the University of Kansas, the University of Missouri, K-State and UMKC. A case study conducted as part of the study will involve two other educational providers in the Greater Kansas City area: the Olathe Unified School District (USD) and Johnson County Community College.

“The development of statewide databases coupled with the collaboration possible through KC-AERC provides a golden opportunity to understand why students are often referred to remedial math courses in college,” Spears said. “The power of this study comes from the fact that we are including so many different stakeholders, from K-12, to community colleges, to universities, and finally to state educational policy-makers.”

Murdock said this issue might be an unwitting contributor to the country’s ever-growing shortage of mathematicians and scientists. Nationwide, the percentage of incoming freshmen referred to remedial math courses ranges from 28 to 42 percent, depending on the study.

“For students wanting to pursue degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professions, referral to remedial math courses often spells the end of those dreams,” she said.

For more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview with a member of the research team or other affiliates of the project, call or email Leigh Anne Taylor Knight, Ed.D., the Executive Director of KC-AERC.

March, 2017