Thursday, May 31, 2012

More Math, Science and College For U.S. Students Than Ever Before

Earlier this week I posted a piece on the Brookings report that schools are no worse today than in the past, contrary to the hysteria whipped by Ed Deformers and pundits that school’s today are in crisis. Their analysis of PISA test scores indicated that while U.S. math and science scores have been improving slightly, they never were (and still aren’t) very strong compared with other wealthy countries.

However, in many ways, K-12 education has been making dramatic gains. Students today are taking more math and science courses than a generation ago, while more are going straight to college after graduation. Between 1990 and 2009, the percentage of high school students taking chemistry jumped from 49% to 70%, and the percentage taking physics rose from 21% to 36%, according to The Condition of Education 2012, a new report reviewed on the Good Education website. There were similar gains in math, with 16% of students taking calculus in 2009, compared with 7% in 1990, and 11% taking statistics, compared with 1% in 1990.

The number of students entering college right after high school jumped from 49% in 1979, to 70% in 2009. While gains were seen for most ethnic groups and were largest for African Americans (66% in 2010, compared with 43% in 1975), there are still significant disparities in total college enrollment. A higher percentage of white students (70%) and a much higher percentage of Asian students (88%) are going to college right out of high school than black students (66%), while the rate for Hispanic students has remained flat over the past several decades. The most glaring disparities, however, were among different income groups, with only 52% of low-income students attending college right out of high school, compared with 82% of students from high-income families.

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