Since A Nation at Risk was published in 1983, school reforms have emphasized increasing the number of academic courses students take in high school. More recent reforms have emphasized increasing the rigor, as well as the number, of courses taken. Research suggests a positive relationship between the level of difficulty of courses students take and their performance on assessments.105, 106
NOTE: Data reflect only the percentage of graduates who earned credit for each course while in high school and do not count those graduates who took these courses prior to entering high school. "Algebra II" includes courses in which trigonometry or geometry has been combined with algebra II. The percentage for "biology and chemistry" indicates the percentage of graduates who completed at least one credit each in a biology and a chemistry course. The percentage for "biology, chemistry, and physics" indicates the percentage of graduates who had completed at least one course each in a biology, a chemistry, and a physics course. "Foreign language" includes a year 3, year 4, or advanced placement/international baccalaureate/honors course.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, High School Transcript Studies: High School and Beyond Study of 1980 Sophomores, and National Assessment of Educational Progress Transcript Study.
105 Dalton, B., Ingels, S.J., Downing, J., and Bozick, R. (2007). Advanced mathematics and science coursetaking in the spring high school senior classes of 1982, 1992, and 2004. National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC.
106 Leow, C., Marcus, S., Zanutto, E., and Boruch, R. (2004). Effects of advanced course-taking on math and science achievement: Addressing selection bias using propensity scores. American Journal of Evaluation, 25, 461–478.
107 Snyder, T.D., and Dillow, S.A. (2012). Digest of Education Statistics 2011 (NCES 2012-001). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC.
108 Nord, C., Roey, S., Perkins, R., Lyons, M., Lemanski, N., Brown, J., and Schuknecht, J. (2011). The Nation's Report Card: America's high school graduates (NCES 2011-462). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.