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Coursetaking Patterns: Trends in Advanced Coursetaking

Science and Mathematics

This section shows trends between 1982 and 2004 in the highest level of science and mathematics coursework that high school graduates completed. In 1982, some 35 percent of high school graduates had completed advanced science coursework (i.e., at least one course classified as more challenging than general biology); this percentage increased to 68 percent by 2004 (see figure 4 and table SA-5). Most of this increase is attributable to increases in completion of chemistry I and/or physics I. The percentage of graduates who had completed at least one course of either chemistry II, physics II, and/or advanced biology fluctuated from year to year and ultimately increased just 3 percentage points, from 15 to 18 percent between 1982 and 2004.^{11}

The percentage of high school graduates who had completed courses in advanced mathematics (i.e., completed at least one course classified as more challenging than algebra II) increased from 26 percent in 1982 to 50 percent in 2004 (see figure 5 and see table SA-6). Moreover, the percentage of graduates who had completed a calculus-level course more than doubled over this period (from 6 to 14 percent).^{12}

As was the case in 1998 and 2000 (data not shown), in 2004, female graduates were more likely than male graduates to have completed some advanced science coursework (71 vs. 65 percent) (see table SA-7). This difference, however, is mostly attributable to the larger percentage of female than male graduates who completed a course in chemistry I or physics I. There were no measurable differences between the percentage of female and male graduates who completed coursework in chemistry I *and* physics I or in the percentage who completed a course in chemistry II, physics II, and/or advanced biology. Unlike in 1998 and 2000 (data not shown), in 2004, female graduates were more likely than male graduates to have completed some advanced mathematics courses (e.g., trigonometry, precalculus, or calculus); however, as in 1998 and 2000, there was no measurable difference between the percentage of female and male graduates who completed calculus-level coursework (see table SA-8).

Asian/Pacific Islander graduates were more likely than graduates of any other race/ethnicity in 1998, 2000, and 2004 to have completed advanced science and mathematics courses (1998 and 2000 data not shown) (see tables SA-7 and SA-8). For example, 33 percent of Asians/Pacific Islanders completed a calculus-level course, compared with 16 percent of Whites, 7 percent of Hispanics, 6 percent of American Indians, and 5 percent of Blacks. Following Asians/Pacific Islanders, Whites were more likely than Blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians to have completed advanced science and mathematics courses in each of these 3 years.

In 1998, 2000, and 2004, private school graduates were also more likely than public school graduates to have completed advanced courses in science and mathematics. For example, in 2004, a greater percentage of private school graduates than public school graduates completed at least one advanced course in science (85 vs. 67 percent) and a calculus-level course (25 vs. 13 percent).

^{11}Academic levels are labeled according to the most commonly known course at that level; courses with different names or on topics of different but similar academic difficulty may be included under these rubrics. See supplemental note 12 for a complete listing of all the courses classified at each academic level. (back to text)

^{12}Calculus-level courses include AP calculus, calculus, and calculus/analytical geometry. (back to text)

Figures and Tables

Figure 4: Percentage of high school graduates who completed middle and advanced levels of science courses, by highest level of coursework completed: Selected years, 1982-2004

Figure 5: Percentage of high school graduates who completed middle and advanced levels of mathematics courses, by highest level of coursework completed: Selected years, 1982-2004

Table SA-5: Percentage distribution of high school graduates, by highest level of science course completed: Selected years, 1982-2004

Table SA-6: Percentage distribution of high school graduates, by highest level of mathematics course completed: Selected years, 1982-2004

Table SA-7: Percentage distribution of high school graduates, by highest level of science course completed and selected characteristics: 2004

Table SA-8: Percentage distribution of high school graduates, by highest level of mathematics course completed and selected characteristics: 2004

Table SSA-5: Standard errors for the percentage distribution of high school graduates, by highest level of science course completed: Selected years, 1982-2004

Table SSA-6: Standard errors for the percentage distribution of high school graduates, by highest level of mathematics course completed: Selected years, 1982-2004

Table SSA-7: Standard errors for the percentage distribution of high school graduates, by highest level of science course completed and selected characteristics: 2004

Table SSA-8: Standard errors for the percentage distribution of high school graduates, by highest level of mathematics course completed and selected characteristics: 2004