Core Curriculum Works High Schools with Core Courses Produce Successful Students

Article excerpt

When it comes to education policy in the United States today, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: The structure of course work matters.

As states move to implement the Common Core State Standards, the positive impact that core course work and advanced study can have on college readiness is already evident in the SAT performance of recent high school graduates throughout Pennsylvania and the nation.

According to The College Board's 2012 SAT Report on College and Career Readiness, which was released this month, students who completed a core curriculum in high school did significantly better on the SAT than those who did not. A core curriculum is defined as four or more years of English and at least three or more years of math, science and social science or history.

Central to the report is the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark, which measures the academic preparedness of groups of students for higher education and beyond. Achieving the benchmark score of 1550 on the SAT is linked to a 65 percent likelihood of earning a B- average or higher during freshman year of college, which in turn is linked to a strong likelihood of graduating from college within six years.

This year, 43 percent of all SAT takers achieved the benchmark, suggesting that more needs to be done to improve college readiness, even among college-bound students. The numbers are different, however, for those enrolled in a core curriculum. Forty-nine percent of SAT takers who completed a core curriculum achieved the benchmark, compared to only 30 percent of those who did not -- nearly a 20-point improvement.

A similar result can be seen in the mean scores of Pennsylvania's SAT takers, where the 77 percent who completed a core curriculum earned an average SAT score of 1523 -- a staggering 143 points higher than the average SAT score of Pennsylvania students who did not complete core course work. …