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

In the initial stages of studying, both males and females displayed nearly equal enrollment rates in first-year chemistry and second-year algebra. However, a greater proportion of boys opted for physics and calculus courses. A recent study indicates that the percentage of girls enrolling in advanced math classes has shown improvement in 12 out of 16 states that reported this data to the CCSSO. This increase can be attributed to the stricter graduation requirements in most states.

The study conducted by the Council of Chief State School Officers highlights that during the 1980s, over 40 states raised the number of math and science credits necessary for graduation. Since 1990, enrollment in advanced math courses has risen by up to 12 percentage points in 29 out of 31 states that provided trend data to the CCSSO. Similarly, all but five of the 31 states displayed similar increases in advanced science course enrollment.

Over the past four years, enrollment rates have declined by approximately one-third for lower-level courses. Only 13 percent of high school students took general, remedial, or consumer-math courses in 1994, which is a decrease from the 19 percent in 1990.

This report draws on data from various sources such as 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 records from state education departments. It is the third installment of a biennial series focusing on state math and science indicators, formulated and managed by the National Science Foundation.

Despite advancements, disparities in academic achievement persist between different racial and ethnic groups. With the exception of Hawaii, all states display gaps in performance between white students and the largest minority group. Nationally, around three-quarters of white students achieve at or above the basic math level on the NAEP tests, while only a quarter of black students reach that standard. Although Hispanic and black students showed improvement on the NAEP math and science assessments between 1982 and 1992, they still lag behind white students by more than 40 scale points, which is equivalent to the progress made in four years of education.

However, there has been a significant increase in minority enrollment in advanced math and science classes. Hispanic and American Indian participation in Algebra 2 courses has doubled. The percentage of black students taking Algebra 2 has also risen considerably, from 26 percent to 41 percent. Both black and Hispanic enrollment in chemistry has doubled, reaching 46 percent and 43 percent respectively. However, American Indian enrollment dropped by 1 percentage point to 33 percent.

Gender differences were not observed in the NAEP mathematics assessment at ages 9 and 13, although boys scored slightly higher than girls at age 17. On the science assessment, girls consistently scored lower than boys at ages 9, 13, and 17, with a difference of approximately 10 scale points at age 17. In the early stages, male and female enrollment rates were roughly equal in first-year chemistry and second-year algebra, but a higher proportion of boys opted for physics and calculus. Since 1990, there has been an increase in the percentage of girls taking advanced math courses in 12 out of 16 states that provided this data to the CCSSO.


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    Hugo Ellis is a 27-year-old educational blogger. He has a love for writing and educating others about different topics. Hugo is a self-taught writer who has a passion for helping others achieve their goals.