CPS Secondary Math Curriculum Coordinator Chip Sharp provided average ACT scores reported by course enrollment which are used in the figures below. Plotting the data in several ways gives food for thought regarding the differences between algebra and integrated math pathways offered at CPS.
The data don't distinguish between which students are sophomores, juniors or seniors when they take the ACT, which students may have repeated courses or what year they started the pathway (7th, 8th or 9th grade). But it does give some idea of how much math "preparation" each course pathway provides at least for the years for which data is available.
The average ACT score is highest for students in the honors algebra pathway. Note that the average ACT score of students in the regular (non-honors) algebra pathway is higher than the average ACT of honors integrated math (IM) students, with regular (non-honors) IM students having the lowest scores. But the year-to-year increase in ACT scores is similar for the algebra, honors algebra and honors integrated pathways. The increase for the regular IM pathway is less from year 2 to 3, but similar for year 3 to 4.
Looking at how much ACT scores change year-to-year in the course sequence suggests where students might have a difficult time moving up to higher level math. For example, regular IM students that try to take either of the AP Calculus courses may struggle since the jump in ACT scores is quite big. (As a matter of fact, very few regular IM students enroll in AP math courses.) Honors algebra pathway students may not be adequately challenged by AP calculus AB (one semester of college calculus in a year-long high school course) since the average ACT score actually drops from precalc to AP calc AB; they should likely be encouraged to enroll in AP calculus BC (one year of college calculus in a year-long high school course).
Another way of looking at the data shows that after four years in regular IM, ACT scores are about the same as students with just two years of algebra pathway coursework. Although students in 2nd year IM have higher ACT scores than 1st year algebra students, after four total years of IM coursework, their ACT scores are lower than algebra students with just three years of coursework.
Comparing ACT scores of groups of students that start algebra and integrated pathways in the same year and with similar Terra Nova scores in 8th grade would likely make clear whether one pathway or the other provides better preparation for the ACT and potentially give some guidance for math placement.