The Implications of High School Course Availability and Course-Taking for Achievement, Graduation, and Postsecondary Enrollment

July 01, 2007

Funding: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences

Summary: Responding to increases in the demand for skilled labor, persistent racial and income gaps in academic outcomes, and the higher relative performance of secondary students from other developed countries, U.S. policymakers and educators have turned their attention, once again, towards high school curriculum.  To inform this effort, our study identifies the determinants of course-offerings across schools and course-taking within schools, and the effects of course-taking on outcomes at multiple stages of the students' high school and postsecondary careers.  We seek primarily to estimate: 1) the share of socioeconomic and demographic disparities in course-taking that can be attributed to variation across schools in their course offerings versus variation in course-taking among students within schools; and 2) the share of socioeconomic and demographic disparities in 10th grade test scores, four-year graduation rates, and enrollment rates in postsecondary institutions that can be attributed to differential returns to course-taking, differential course-taking within schools, and differential course offerings across schools.  The research relies on administrative data from the Florida Department of Education on the census of 8th through 12th grade public school students (and their schools) from 1998 to 2005.