America's High School Graduates: Results from the 2009 NAEP High School Transcript Study
High school students are taking more courses now than they were two decades ago, and more are opting for rigorous curricula, according to the 2009 NAEP High School Transcript Study (HSTS). According to the nationally representative study, 2009 graduates earned three more course credits than their 1990 peers, translating into 420 more hours of instruction. Even better, students are earning more credits in the core courses (English, math, science, and history). Unfortunately, the HSTS can’t explain how these shifts occurred, while noting that neither the school day nor the school year has been altered. (The authors do offer potential explanations, including an increase in voluntary summer school, supplemental online courses, etc. But the data doesn’t allow for concrete explanations.) There’s more good news: Students in 2009 are, on average, taking a more rigorous course of study than their 1990 counterparts. The shift has been particularly prominent for African Americans. In 1990, 60 percent of all black graduates took a “below basic” curriculum, and only 26 percent took a “midlevel” or “rigorous” one. In 2009, only 21 percent took a below basic curriculum, and 57 percent engaged in a midlevel or rigorous one. This shift seems promising for NAEP scores: The HSTS reports that students who take rigorous curricula score proficient in NAEP math and science. Whether the strong NAEP performance is due to the rigorous curricula or not requires further analysis. Even though the HSTS leaves many questions unanswered, the report brings to the fore some heady policy issues and offers, for those willing to sift through the silt, a few golden policy nuggets.
|Click to listen to commentary on the NAEP HSTS from the Education Gadfly Show podcast
Christine Nord, Shep Roey, Robert Perkins, Marsha Lyons, Nita Lemanski, Yael Tamir, Janis Brown, Jason Schuknecht, and Kathleen Herrold, “America's High School Graduates: Results from the 2009 NAEP High School Transcript Study,” (Washington, D.C.: National Center for Education Statistics, April 2011).
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