MIAMI — More high school students are enrolling in math and science classes and seeking online learning opportunities. Fewer want or are able to find jobs while in school.
Those are just some of the changes under way at the nation's high schools in how students are learning and what they are doing with their extra time, according to a report released today by the U.S. Education Department.
The annual "Condition of Education" report said there has been a marked increase in the past two decades in the percent of high school graduates who had taken calculus, from 7 percent in 1990 to 16 percent in 2009. Overall, the percentage enrolling in math and science courses increased in all subjects except algebra I, which many students now take in middle school.
Yet while more are enrolling, the report also says scores have largely stagnated: Seventeen-year-old students performed neither significantly better nor worse on a national math and reading assessment than they did in the early 1970s. Just 1 percent of high school seniors scored at the highest level on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test in science in 2009.
Thirty years ago, the Department of Education released its landmark report, "A Nation at Risk," which raised concerns about academic achievement and called for students to take three years of math and science.
Nancy Songer, a professor of science education and learning technologies at the University of Michigan, said that once high school students finish their math and reading requirements, there is a noticeable drop in the number that pursue courses in those subjects as an elective.
"Even if we are seeing some bubbles of improvement in enrollment, we are still dramatically under-enrolled compared to what we will need in the future," Songer said.