Survey by Chiefs Finds Little Correlation Between Mandates, Advanced Coursework
The survey, released here at the annual meeting of the American Education Research Association, represents the first state-by-state comparisons of student course-taking in high-school subjects.
It found that, nationally, 81 percent of students in the fall of 1989 had taken algebra 1, 49 percent had taken algebra 2, and 9 percent had taken calculus. In science, it found, more than 95 percent had taken biology, 45 percent had taken chemistry, and 20 percent had taken physics.
But the survey also found wide variations in course-taking among states. (The percentages represent a statistical estimate of course-taking of high-school students by they time they graduate based on course enrollments in fall 1989.)
And some states that had imposed strict curricular mandates--a hallmark of the mid-1980's reform movement--had relatively low enrollments in upper-level courses, particularly in math, according to Ramsay W. Selden, director of the state education-assessment center at the CCSSO.
"There is not necessarily a strong connection between states' requiring additional courses and students' taking courses at higher levels," he said. "Students are meeting requirements with courses not at high levels. [The mandates] don't appear to be driving kids into algebra 2 and calculus."
Mr. Selden noted, however, that some of the curricular mandates appeared to affect student course-taking. For example, he noted, in Louisiana, which requires every student to take algebra in order to graduate, more than 95 percent of the graduates had taken that course.
By contrast, he noted, Wyoming, which has almost no state-level mandates, was at the "bottom of the pack" in enrollments in algebra 2. Only 29 percent of Wyoming students had taken that subject, the survey found.
Full Report To Follow
Rolf K. Blank, director of the mathematics-and-science indicators project for the CCSSO, suggested that policies other than curricular mandates may affect course-taking. For example, he said, many states with high concentrations of rural areas may lack teachers to teach high-level courses.
He added that the full report on math and science indicators, which is expected to be released this month, will also include data on teaching conditions, school conditions, and equity.
In the future, the report will include achievement data from the state-level National Assessment of Educational Progress, as such data become available, Mr. Blank said.
In addition, Mr. Selden said, future reports may also include information on what is taught in science and math courses.
"It's important, ultimately, to look at the content below the course title," he said.
Vol. 10, Issue 30, Page 13