Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Predictive Factors in Intensive Math Course-Taking in High School

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Predictive Factors in Intensive Math Course-Taking in High School

Article excerpt

This article presents a study that investigated factors that distinguish high school students who completed at least one course beyond Algebra 2 from those who completed a course in Algebra 2 or less. The sample included a cohort of 11,909 high school seniors who participated in the Educational Longitudinal Study 2002-2004. Data were analyzed using a multinomial logistic regression and results indicated that student expectations, parent aspirations, race, and socioeconomic status were among the most significant predictors. Implications for school counselors are discussed.


Recent influences in the field of school counseling have all emphasized the advocate role of the school counselor. The National Standards of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA, 1997; Campbell & Dahir, 1997), the ASCA National Model (2005), and the Transforming School Counseling Initiative (Education Trust, 1997) have contributed to determining the role of the school counselor as more proactive in maximizing the academic, career, and personal/social development of students. A principal form of this advocacy is curriculum planning. The high school counselor is in a unique position to help students make informed choices about courses with important consequences for their postsecondary lives.

The intensity of the high school curriculum and its relationship to postsecondary life has been a topic of investigation with a long history. A crucial turning point in this history was the publication of A Nation at Risk (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983), which documented that America's schools were lagging behind those of other developed nations with falling scores in reading and math and issued a dire warning about the need to improve the quality of education in the United States. As a result, major changes took place in the high school graduation requirements (Stedman & Jordan, 1986). The 1980s also saw the second of the U.S. Department of Education's national grade-cohort study, High School and Beyond, which followed a national sample of 10th graders from 1980 to 1992 and permitted an analysis of the relationships between precollegiate educational history and postsecondary educational status (U.S. Department of Education, 1995). For example, Adelman (1999) found that curriculum intensity had the greatest influence not only upon college entrance but upon bachelor's degree completion when compared to academic performance based on grade point average (GPA) or class rank and senior-year test scores. Furthermore, the most significant contributor to the strength of the curriculum was the highest level of mathematics completed by the student and that completing one course beyond Algebra 2 more than doubled the odds that students would complete their baccalaureate degree (Adelman). These effects were even stronger for African American and Latino students when compared to White and Asian students and led to the suggestion that Algebra 2 should be considered a threshold course.

Analysis on the third longitudinal cohort study, "National Educational Longitudinal Study: 1988-2000" (U.S. Department of Education, 2002), reached similar conclusions. Using this data set, Trusty and Niles (2003) found strong effects for all intensive math courses: the more intensive math courses one takes, the greater the likelihood of completing a college degree. Adelman (2006) produced similar results but also showed that, in contrast to 1982 12 graders, 1992 12th graders' chance of completing a baccalaureate degree turned positive only after completing a course beyond Algebra 2 such as trigonometry, precalculus, or calculus (Adelman). It does appear, then, from the more recent data that Algebra 2 serves as a threshold course in regards to the completion of the baccalaureate degree.


Research has documented that African American and Latino high school students take fewer advanced level math courses than their White peers (Jones, Mullis, Raizen, Weiss, & Weston, 1992; Ladson-Billings, 1997; Lucas, 1999; Riegle-Crumb, 2006). …

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