Reforms Spur Higher Enrollment In Math and Science, Study Finds

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The tougher graduation standards and more stringent college-entrance requirements fostered by the education-reform movement have encouraged a larger proportion of high-school students to enroll in mathematics and science courses, a new report by the Educational Testing Service indicates.

"What Americans Study," released last month by the e.t.s. Policy Information Center, shows that enrollments in math and science courses--excluding calculus and physics--have experienced "strong increases" during the 1980's.

But enrollments in advanced math and science by black and Hispanic students, the report notes, still lag substantially behind those of whites, despite some progress in closing the gap.

While the differences in male and female enrollments in advanced math and science courses were found to be "generally small or nonexistent," the report says, "the percentage of males taking physics was substantially larger than for females."

The ets study looked at enrollment trends among high-school graduates between 1982 and 1987, as well as at "self reported" course selections of students who took the Scholastic Aptitude Test between 1975 and 1988.

"The gains in academic course-taking are widespread across all racial and ethnic groups," said Margaret Goertz, the testing firm's senior research assistant, whose research forms the basis of the report.

But white students "are still considerably more likely to take advanced math and science courses" than blacks or Hispanics, the report concludes.

It suggests that state education officials consider refashioning their course requirements to take into account "differences that result from disparate social and economic backgrounds."

The report also points out that its findings concern only the number of courses taken by high-school students. "[W]e can report on only the quantity of the courses taken and subjects studied; we know nothing from these data sources about quality," it states.

The study also indicated that occupational- and vocational-education courses did not suffer from the upswing in academic enrollments.

Copies of "What Americans Study" are available for $3.50 each from the Educational Testing Service, Publications Order Service, P.O. Box 6736, Princeton, N.J. 08541-6736.--pw

Vol. 08, Issue 40

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