Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Maryann Leonard


Algebra 1 is considered an essential course to master in order to understand the concepts of higher-order mathematics, and the California accountability system designates this course for completion in 8th grade. In Shelton County, however, placement of 8th graders in this course is based on feeder school, rather than student ability, resulting in inequitable access. The purpose of this case study was to examine the experiences of administrators who place individual students in mathematics courses and the factors that influence their placement decisions. The conceptual framework for the study was administrative theory as related to processes of effective decision making. Eighteen administrators from 9 local districts described their experiences as they made decisions to place 8th grade students in Algebra 1. Seventeen administrators completed a semi-structured questionnaire on the placement decision-making process, 9 participated in follow-up semi-structured interviews, and 1 was interviewed only. Data were transcribed, open coded, and thematically analyzed. They key findings that affected placement decisions included that many students entered middle school unprepared for algebra, the local mathematics programs were not coherently designed, and aspects of an effective action-cycle decision-making process were absent. A position paper was developed that offers policy and practice recommendations that address these findings. Key recommendations include implementing clear policy, pursuing a coherent instructional program, providing student support interventions, and utilizing assessment and placement processes. This project study advances positive social change by engaging educational leaders at the local site to develop their professional practice and enhance the quality of their organizations' mathematics education program.