NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 1, 2006

The Texas legislature's recent decision to add a fourth year of math and science to the Recommended High School Program (the state's default graduation plan) will certainly help improve college readiness.  In fact, Texas will be the first state in the country to expect graduates to complete four years of each of the four core subjects. Students will begin graduating under the plan in 2011, says Jamie Story, an education policy analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

But there are some schools in Texas already ahead of the curve in stressing math and science education.  Consider the Science Academy of South Texas, an open enrollment charter school in Mercedes:

  • The Science Academy requires freshmen and sophomores to take two science classes each year, so students often graduate high school with six science credits in four years; and by offering geometry in the summer, the Science Academy also enables its students to graduate with five math credits.
  • Research produced by the U.S. Department of Education indicates the likelihood of attaining a college degree is increased by 50 percent when students complete at least one advanced math course beyond Algebra II, so it is no surprise that more than 90 percent of Science Academy graduates eventually attain a four-year college degree.
  • By comparison, only 63 percent of Texas high school graduates transition directly to college, with only about half of them earning a degree within six years.
  • The Science Academy makes room for additional classes by forgoing inter-varsity athletics; however, other schools have achieved similar results by increasing the amount of time students spend in school.

The math and science performance of Texas students is not where it needs to be, but schools such as the Science Academy are helping ensure that Texas is moving in the right direction, says Story.

Source: Jamie Story, "Missing The Bus On Math? While most are lagging behind, some schools are bright examples," Texas Public Policy Foundation, August 24, 2006.

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