High School Curriculum: How important is rigor? - FAQ

High School Curriculum: How important is rigor?

High School Socioeconomic Segregation and Student Attainment
Purpose: To examine the associations between socioeconomic composition (SEC) and attainment measured at two critical transitions—high school graduation and college enrollment—and to investigate school mechanisms that mediate those associations
Issue/Topic: Desegregation; Student Achievement--Closing the Achievement Gap
Author(s): Palardy, Gregory
Publication: American Educational Research Journal
Published on: 3/26/2013

Question 1 To what degree do student attainment, academic and family background, and school factors vary in low, medium, and high SEC schools?

Equity or Marginalization?: The High School Course-Taking of Students Labeled With a Learning Disability
Purpose: To investigate whether students labeled with learning disabilities complete fewer academic courses by the end of high school compared to their peers who are not labeled, when both cohorts have similar backround characteristics, early high school experiences, achievement, attitudes, and behaviors
Issue/Topic: Equity; High School--College Readiness
Author(s): Callahan, Rebecca; Muller, Chandra; Shifrer, Dara
Organization(s): Rice University; University of Texas
Publication: American Educational Research Journal
Published on: 1/1/2013
  • Findings suggest that students labeled with a learning disablity (LD) have considerably poorer course-taking outcomes than students who are not labeled with disability but are otherwise similar.
  • Results are consistent with t...

The Impact of Dual Enrollment on College Degree Attainment: Do Low-SES Students Benefit?
Purpose: To examine the influence of dual enrollment on college degree attainment and whether these influences equally benefit all students or only high-SES students.
Issue/Topic: High School--Dual/Concurrent Enrollment; P-16 or P-20
Author(s): An, Brian
Publication: Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis
Published on: 10/9/2012

Key Finding
  • Dual enrollment positively influences college degree attainment, even after accounting for student, family,...

The Ineffectiveness of High School Graduation Requirement Reforms: A Story of Implementation and Enforcement?
Purpose: To determine whether the relative ineffectiveness of graduation credit requirement reforms is in part the result of lax implementation and enforcement of these policies.
Issue/Topic: High School--College Readiness; High School--Graduation Requirements
Published on: 8/25/2012
Findings/Results: Approximately 18% of students who received a diploma in 2004 did not meet all requirements in either math, science, or both subjects. Approximately 9% of diploma recipients failed to achieve their state's mathematics requirements and more than 11% fai...

Does Raising the Bar Level the Playing Field?: Mathematics Curricular Intensification and Inequality in American High Schools, 1982-2004
Purpose: To investigate the consequences of academic intensification for social stratification in American high schools, particularly focusing on inequalities in access to higher level math courses such as calculus.
Issue/Topic: Curriculum--Mathematics; Equity
Author(s): Domina, Thurston; Saldana, Joshua
Publication: American Education Research Journal
Published on: 7/11/2012
Findings/Results: Race, class and skills gaps in geometry, algebra II, and trigonometry completion have narrowed considerably over the study period. Consistent with the theory of maximally maintained inequality, however, inequalities in calculus completion remain pronounce...

Effects of High School Course-Taking on Secondary and Postsecondary Success
Purpose: To examine the association between students' high school course-taking in various subjects and their 10th-grade test scores, high school graduation, entry into postsecondary, and postsecondary performance.
Issue/Topic: High School
Author(s): Conger, Dylan; Iatarola, Patrice; Long, Mark
Publication: American Educational Research Journal
Published on: 4/12/2012
  • There are substantial significant differences in outcomes for those who take rigorous courses, and these effects are often larger for disadvantaged youth and students attending disadvantaged schools.
  • Students who take at least on...

College for All: Gaps Between Desirable and Actual P-12 Math Achievement Trajectories for College Readiness
Purpose: This study addresses missing links in the current P-16 education and "College for All" debates by investigating gaps between actual and desirable math achievement trajectories for different college pathways. The goals of the study are twofold: (1) to compare performance standards, benchmarks, and norms for college readiness, and; (2) to assess college readiness gaps among all students as well as among racial and social groups.
Issue/Topic: High School--College Readiness; P-16 or P-20
Published on: 3/5/2012
Findings/Results: 1. This study revealed large disparities between actual and desirable math achievement levels for college readiness.

2. Math achievement was a good predictor of whether students in P-12 stay on track toward 2 or 4 year college education.

3. ...

Curricular Coherence and the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics
Purpose: To explore the relationship of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM) to student achievement
Issue/Topic: Curriculum--Mathematics; Standards--Common Core State Standards
Author(s): Houang, Richard; Schmidt, William
Organization(s): Michigan State University
Publication: Educational Researcher
Published on: 1/1/2012
  • A very high degree of similarity exists between the CCSSM and the standards of the highest achieving nations on the 1995 Third International Mathematics and Science Study.
  • A wide variation in the proximity of state standards to th...

Balancing Career and Technical Education With Academic Coursework: The Consequences for Mathematics Achievement in High School
Purpose: To examine the relationship between CTE coursework and mathematics achievement in high school
Issue/Topic: Career/Technical Education; Curriculum--Mathematics
Author(s): Bozick, Robert; Dalton, Benjamin
Organization(s): Rand Corporation; RTI International
Publication: Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis
Published on: 1/1/2012
  • CTE courses neither limit overall gains in mathematics learning nor the acquisition of basic and intermediate mathematics skills, a finding that should assuage the concerns of those who worry that the expansion of CTE will undermine the efforts of...

Algebra: A Challenge at the Crossroads of Policy and Practice
Purpose: To provide an assessment of what we know about selective and “universal algebra” policies, including who is getting access to algebra and at what point in their educational careers. Also assessed is the knowledge base regarding what is taught in the name of algebra and the outcomes associated with different patterns of algebra course taking.
Issue/Topic: Curriculum--Mathematics; Instructional Approaches--Tracking/Ability Grouping
Author(s): Hillen, Amy; Kaufman, Julia; Sherman, Milan; Stein, Mary
Organization(s): Carnegie Mellon University; Kennesaw State College; Portland State University; University of Pittsburgh
Publication: Review of Educational Research
Published on: 12/20/2011

U.S. Trends for Who Takes Algebra and When, and What Algebra is Taken

  • There has been a significant increase in eighth grade Algebra I enrollment over the past two decades.  As a consequence, there have been small declines in...

Content Coverage Differences across Districts/States: A Persisting Challenge for U.S. Education Policy
Purpose: To explore the relationship between classroom mathematics content coverage and student achievement
Issue/Topic: Equity; Standards
Author(s): Cogan, Leland; Houang, Richard; McKnight, Curtis; Schmidt, William
Organization(s): Michigan State University; University of Oklahoma
Publication: American Journal of Education
Published on: 1/1/2011

Significant differences in content coverage do exist as a function of the U.S. education system, and this is related to the observed student achievement differences.

1. In the 13 districts examined, vast variation in math content existed and non...

Tripartite Growth Trajectories of Reading and Math Achievement: Tracking National Academic Progress at Primary, Middle, and High School Levels
Purpose: To examine trends in American students' growth trajectories in reading and math achievement over the past three decades.
Issue/Topic: P-16 or P-20; Student Achievement
Author(s): Lee, Jaekyung
Organization(s): State University of New York at Buffalo
Publication: American Educational Research Journal
Published on: 1/1/2010

1. American students may be gaining ground at the pre/early primary school level, holding ground at the middle school level, and losing ground at the high school level.

2. The comparison of standardized reading and math gains clearly suggests tha...

Passing Through Science: The Effects of Raising Graduation Requirements in Science on Course-Taking and Academic Achievement in Chicago
Purpose: To examine the effects of implementing a universal science mandate in a large urban district.
Issue/Topic: Curriculum--Science; High School--Graduation Requirements
Author(s): Allensworth, Elaine; Correa, Macarena; Montgomery, Nicholas
Organization(s): Consortium on Chicago School Research
Published on: 1/1/2010
  • The change in graduation requirements led substantially more students to take and pass three or more full science courses.
  • Despite large increases in course-taking, there is little evidence they learned substantially more. Most gr...

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