NAEP report: 'Rigor works,' so schools need tougher classes
More students – but still not enough – are taking a rigorous course load, according to the NAEP report card from The National Assessment of Educational Progress, released Wednesday.
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One area that math-education reformers have been pushing is an earlier emphasis on algebra, considered a gateway course for higher-level math and science. Those efforts appear to be bearing fruit. In 2009, 1 in 4 high school graduates had taken algebra I before high school, up from 1 in 5 in 2005.Skip to next paragraph
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Geometry usually comes after algebra, and those who started high school in a geometry course scored 31 points higher on the 2009 NAEP math assessment than those who started high school in algebra I.
Persistent achievement gaps
For those who track the achievement of various subgroups of students, the study revealed both progress and persistent gaps.
The portion of African-American graduates who completed a below-standard curriculum decreased from 60 percent in 1990 to 21 percent in 2009. But while 14 percent of white high school graduates had a rigorous curriculum in 2009, that held true for only 6 percent of African-Americans and 8 percent of Hispanics.
“African-American and Latino students are still less likely to attend high schools that offer high-level math courses like trigonometry and calculus, which severely limits their ability to take the courses they’ll need to be successful,” said Kati Haycock, president of The Education Trust, in a statement. The Washington policy group works to close racial and income-based achievement gaps.
Also more likely to complete a below-standard curriculum, today’s study showed, were students with a parent who did not finish high school (34 percent), English-language learners (63 percent), and students with disabilities (45 percent).
For more students to gain from strong math and science courses, particularly in urban areas where minority and low-income students are often concentrated, “the bottom line is we need to increase the quality and rigor of teacher training,” said Henry Kranendonk, a math curriculum consultant to the Milwaukee Public Schools and a member of the National Assessment Governing Board.
It’s also a costly proposition, Kranendonk noted, for cash-strapped school districts to find ways to offer high-level courses, especially in schools where the number of students ready for such courses is small.
Ensuring that all students take more challenging courses “will require resources, but there’s a definite return on investment when you do it,” says Wise of the Alliance for Excellent Education.
The study, America’s High School Graduates, Results of the 2009 NAEP High School Transcript Study, is based on a nationally representative sample of 37,700 public and private high school graduates nationwide, compared with several previous samples dating back as far as 1990.
* Staff writer Amanda Paulson contributed to this report.