ERIC Number: ED560350
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2014-Aug
Reference Count: N/A
Missing the Mark: Students Gain Little from Mandating Extra Math and Science Courses. ACT Policy Brief
Buddin, Richard; Croft, Michelle
For several decades, policymakers have embraced the goal of preparing students for college and careers, particularly for careers in the area of mathematics and science. The recent emphasis on these STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects is due to the growth of STEM occupations and the perceived shortage of qualified workers to fill these positions. There is a concern that many students do not currently have the level of STEM capabilities necessary for high-skill STEM professions such as engineering or even for low-skill STEM positions in fields such as manufacturing. Using student-level data for nine Illinois high school graduation classes, this report examines the relationship between high school graduation requirements and student outcomes and assesses how changes in math and science requirements affected student outcomes. In August 2005, Illinois enacted Public Act 94-0676 aimed at increasing the rigor of high school by mandating more stringent high school graduation requirements. This study used ACT, National Student Clearinghouse, and Illinois State Board of Education survey data to examine the effects of the reform for public school students. Three questions were addressed: (1) Have the new graduation requirements increased math and science course taking; (2) Has student achievement improved in math and science because of the policy change; and (3) Have college enrollment trends been affected by the new law? A brief overview of each question is provided along with an examination of the law's effectiveness. Findings seem to indicate that state policymakers may be unrealistic in expecting that raising math and science graduation requirements alone through state policy will improve student outcomes. Overall, as states try to increase the preparedness of students for college and career, course requirements alone may not be a sufficient mechanism for change. Exposing students to advanced material is an important first step, but we must recognize that better preparation, better instruction, better student commitment, better parental support, and a host of other factors are needed for students to master these advanced skills.
Descriptors: STEM Education, High School Graduates, Required Courses, Graduation Requirements, Outcomes of Education, Educational Legislation, State Legislation, Educational Change, Educational Policy, Public Schools, Achievement Gains, Mathematics Achievement, Science Achievement, Enrollment Trends, Higher Education, Program Effectiveness, State Policy, College Readiness, Career Readiness, Scores, College Entrance Examinations, College Preparation
ACT, Inc. 500 ACT Drive, P.O. Box 168, Iowa City, IA 52243-0168. Tel: 319-337-1270; Web site: http://www.act.org
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: High Schools; Secondary Education; Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Authoring Institution: ACT, Inc.
Identifiers - Location: Illinois
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: ACT Assessment