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The High School Transcript Study

Total Course Credits Earned

Figure 1 shows the mean number of course credits earned by high school graduates for the years 1990, 1994, 1998, and 2000. The graduates' mean course credits increased over the 10-year period from 1990 to 2000. In 2000, high school graduates earned an average of 26.2 course credits. In 1990, high school graduates earned an average of 23.6 course credits. An increase in earned mean course credits occurred for each transcript study from 1990 to 2000. Between 1998 and 2000, for example, the mean course credits increased by nine-tenths of one credit, from 25.3 course credits to 26.2 course credits.

Figure 1. Mean course credits earned by high school graduates: 1990, 1994, 1998, and 2000


mean number of course credits

NOTE: "Course credits" refers to standardized Carnegie units.
SOURCE: Figure 1 in U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. The High School Transcript Study: A Decade of Change in Curricula and Achievement, 1990-2000. NCES 2004-455, by Robert Perkins, Brian Kleiner, Stephen Roey, and Janis Brown. Project Officer: Janis Brown. Washington, DC: 2004.

Mean Grade Point Average

Figure 2 shows the overall mean GPA of high school graduates for the years 1990, 1994, 1998, and 2000. High school graduates earned a higher overall mean GPA in 2000 than in 1990. In 2000, high school graduates earned a 2.94 overall mean GPA; in 1990, high school graduates earned a 2.68 overall mean GPA. Increases of 0.11 points occurred in the overall mean GPA between 1990 and 1994 and between 1994 and 1998.

Figure 2. Mean grade point average of high school graduates: 1990, 1994, 1998, and 2000


mean grade point average

SOURCE: Figure 10 in U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. The High School Transcript Study: A Decade of Change in Curricula and Achievement, 1990-2000. NCES 2004-455, by Robert Perkins, Brian Kleiner, Stephen Roey, and Janis Brown. Project Officer: Janis Brown. Washington, DC: 2004

Mean Grade Point Average, by Course Subject

Table 1 shows the mean GPA of high school graduates in the 16 course subjects1 covered by the 1990, 1994, 1998, and 2000 transcript studies. Of the 16 course subjects covered by the 2000 High School Transcript Study, mathematics and science courses proved the most difficult for high school students. High school graduates in the year 2000 earned 2.60 and 2.67 mean GPAs, respectively, for mathematics and science courses. Both the mathematics and science mean GPAs were lower than the mean GPAs the HSTS 2000 graduates earned for each of the other 14 course subjects.


1 The High School Transcript Study uses the 16 course subjects established by the Secondary School Taxonomy. These course subjects are as follows: Mathematics, Science, English, Social Studies, Fine Arts, Foreign Languages, Computer-Related Studies, Consumer and Homemaking Education, General Labor Market Preparation, Specific Labor Market Preparation, General Skills, Personal Health and Physical Education, Religion, Military Science, Special Education, and All Other Courses.

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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
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