Upper-Level Math, Science Enrollment Is Up, Study Says

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Enrollment in upper-level mathematics and science classes has increased in recent years, corresponding to tougher high school graduation requirements in most states, a study released here last week says.

During the 1980s, more than 40 states increased the number of math and science credits required for graduation, the report by the Council of Chief State School Officers says. Since 1990, enrollments in upper-level math courses have increased by up to 12 percentage points in 29 of the 31 states reporting trend data to the CCSSO. All but five of the 31 states charted similar increases in upper-level science courses.

Over the past four years, enrollment in lower-level courses has decreased by about one-third. Only 13 percent of high school students took a general, remedial, or consumer-math course in 1994, down from 19 percent in 1990.

The report is based on data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress math and science assessments, Advanced Placement exam results, the Schools and Staffing survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, and state education department records. It is the third in a series of biennial reports on state math and science indicators designed and managed by the National Science Foundation.

Minority Enrollment Up

Achievement gaps between racial and ethnic groups persisted, with all states but Hawaii showing disparities between the performance of white students and that of the largest minority group. Nationwide, about three-quarters of white students perform at or above the basic math level on NAEP tests, while only about a quarter of black students perform at that level.

Hispanic and black students improved more than whites on the NAEP math and science assessments between 1982 and 1992, but they remain behind white students by more than 40 scale points--the equivalent of how much a student would progress in four years.

However, minority enrollment in upper-level math and science classes has increased substantially. Hispanic and American Indian participation in Algebra 2 doubled. The percentage of black students taking Algebra 2 also increased considerably, from 26 percent to 41 percent.

Black and Hispanic enrollment in chemistry doubled, to 46 percent and 43 percent respectively, but American Indian enrollment dropped 1 percentage point to 33 percent.

There were no gender gaps on the NAEP mathematics assessment at ages 9 and 13, but boys scored slightly higher than girls at age 17. On the science assessment, girls scored lower than boys at ages 9, 13, and 17, with a difference of about 10 scale points at age 17.

Male and female enrollment was roughly equal through first-year chemistry and second-year algebra, but a larger percentage of boys took physics and calculus. Since 1990, the percentage of girls taking upper-level math has increased in 12 of the 16 states reporting these data to the CCSSO.

Vol. 15, Issue 06, Page 10

Published in Print: October 11, 1995, as Upper-Level Math, Science Enrollment Is Up, Study Says
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