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Mobile Digest of Education Statistics, 2017

Educational Outcomes

High School Coursetaking Patterns

In 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education recommended that all students take 4 years of English; 3 years each of mathematics, science, and social studies; and half a year of computer science. For those going on to college, 2 years of foreign language study was also recommended.

The average number of science and mathematics credits earned by high school graduates increased between 1982 and 2009. The mean number of mathematics credits (Carnegie units) earned in high school rose from 2.6 in 1982 to 3.9 in 2009, and the number of science credits rose from 2.2 to 3.5 (see Digest of Education Statistics, 2017, table 225.10). During the same period, the average number of English credits increased from 3.9 to 4.4, and the number of social science credits increased from 3.2 to 4.2. The Carnegie unit is a standard of measurement that represents one credit for the completion of a 1-year course.

The percentage of graduates who met or exceeded the college preparatory program recommended by the National Commission on Excellence in Education (excluding computer science) rose from 10 percent in 1982 to 62 percent in 2009.

Table 25. Percentage of public and private high school graduates earning or exceeding selected combinations of academic credits: 1982, 1998, 2005, and 2009

Year of graduation and course combinations taken All graduates
1982 graduates
4 Eng., 3 S.S., 3 Sci., 3 Math, and 2 F.L.9.5
4 Eng., 3 S.S., 3 Sci., and 3 Math14.3
4 Eng., 3 S.S., 2 Sci., and 2 Math31.5
1998 graduates
4 Eng., 3 S.S., 3 Sci., 3 Math, and 2 F.L.44.2
4 Eng., 3 S.S., 3 Sci., and 3 Math55.0
4 Eng., 3 S.S., 2 Sci., and 2 Math74.5
2005 graduates
4 Eng., 3 S.S., 3 Sci., 3 Math, and 2 F.L.54.7
4 Eng., 3 S.S., 3 Sci., and 3 Math67.4
4 Eng., 3 S.S., 2 Sci., and 2 Math83.0
2009 graduates
4 Eng., 3 S.S., 3 Sci., 3 Math, and 2 F.L.61.8
4 Eng., 3 S.S., 3 Sci., and 3 Math74.3
4 Eng., 3 S.S., 2 Sci., and 2 Math87.7

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