ERIC Number: ED461692
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1997
Reference Count: N/A
Course Taking in High School: Is Opportunity Equal? Spotlight on Student Success.
Finn, Jeremy D.
This analysis focuses on school offerings and practices that limit or increase the course work taken by particular groups of students. The National Commission on Excellence in Education has recommended minimal requirements for high school graduation consisting of 4 years of English, 3 years of mathematics, science, and social studies, and one-half year of computer science. Two years of foreign language were recommended for college-bound students. Nevertheless, in spite of unambiguous findings about the relationship of course taking to academic achievement, many schools still do not require the recommended amount of course work. The dynamics underlying students' choices are complex, reflecting personal preferences and contextual factors. Some courses play special roles as gatekeepers. A good example is eighth-grade algebra. Taking algebra in eighth grade easily allows a full mathematics curriculum in high school. Advanced courses and gatekeeper courses are not equally available in all schools or to all students. As the proportion of low-income and minority students in school increases, the relative proportion of college-preparatory and advanced course sections decreases. Even a school with extensive course offerings may engage in practices that deny access to some groups of students. No practice distinguishes the opportunities available to groups of students as effectively as the creation of academic tracks. Requirements ensure engagement in basic course work for most or all students, while advanced offerings make it possible for students to attain excellence. Unfortunately, tracking can subvert the goals of these practices by creating groups of students for whom exposure to academic course work is minimal. (SLD)
Descriptors: Academic Achievement, College Bound Students, Core Curriculum, Course Selection (Students), Disadvantaged Youth, Equal Education, Graduation Requirements, High School Students, High Schools, Required Courses, Track System (Education), Urban Youth
Laboratory for Student Success, 1301 Cecil B. Moore Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19122-6901. Tel: 800-892-5550 (Toll Free).
Publication Type: Information Analyses
Education Level: N/A
Sponsor: Office of Educational Research and Improvement (ED), Washington, DC.
Authoring Institution: Mid-Atlantic Lab. for Student Success, Philadelphia, PA.