COLLEGE READINESS On Course for Success A Close Look at Selected High School Courses That Prepare All Students for College and W ork ON COURSE FOR SUCCESS A CLOSE LOOK AT SELECTED HIGH SCHOOL COURSES THAT PREPARE ALL STUDENTS FOR COLLEGE A Letter from Cyndie Schmeiser and Kati Haycock ACT, Inc. , and The Education Trust, the co-authors of this report, are devoted to the educational success of all students, especially the minority and low-income students who will increasingly contribute to the U.
In particular, ACT and The Education Trust are working to ensure that all students arrive at the doors of colleges and universities ready for college-level study without the need for remediation. That means finding out what essential qualities of high school courses foster successful transition to college. We were therefore eager to cooperate on a study of high schools that succeed in preparing students for a measure of college readiness like the ACT Assessment. We were particularly interested in high schools with substantial populations of students underrepresented in postsecondary education.
This Study Report recounts a 17-month cooperative project that thoroughly examined courses in English, mathematics, and science in 10 such high achieving schools across the nation. We hope that people responsible for high school students’ success— administrators, teachers, counselors, parents, students themselves—will use this report to evaluate their own programs. To this end, we have included course syllabi and course descriptions of key courses in English, mathematics, and science that can be used to examine high school courses to determine if they include the igorous skills necessary for college readiness. These course materials are authentic and were derived from the instructional syllabi used in the courses studied by ACT and The Education Trust. The materials come directly from successful practice. Our joint ambition is to close the achievement gaps between majority and minority students, between high-income and low-income students, and between suburban, urban, and rural students. To accomplish this, we need to ensure that all students have an opportunity to learn the higher-level thinking skills and knowledge that are necessary for college-level work.
We believe that this study will help close these gaps by offering clear guidance to all who care about the future of our children and our country. Sincerely, Cyndie Schmeiser Senior Vice President Research and Development ACT Kati Haycock Director The Education Trust ii CONTENTS The Study Team . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . iv Executive Summary. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . v I. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 II. The Study. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 III. General Findings. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 IV. English . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 V. Mathematics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 VI. Science. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 VII. Discussion and Recommendations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73 References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76 List of Figures Figure 1. 1 Education and Training Pay. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Figure 1. 2 Average ACT Scores by College-Preparatory Core Coursework . . . . . . . . . . 3 Figure 1. 3 Average ACT Math Score by High School Math Course Sequence . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Figure 1. 4 Average ACT Science Score by High School Science Course Sequence . . . . . . . . . 5 List of Tables Table 2. 1 Characteristics of Participating Schools . . . . . . . . . 8 Table 2. 2 Compilation of Course Syllabi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Table 4. 1 English Courses by Title . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Table 5. 1 Math Courses by Title . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 Table 6. 1 Science Courses by Title. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 ON COURSE ACT, Inc. FOR SUCCESS THE STUDY TEAM ACT is an independent, not-for-profit organization that provides a wide variety of educational services to students and their parents, to high schools and colleges, and to professional associations and government agencies and organizations. ACT was founded in 1959 by E. F. Lindquist, a world-renowned authority on educational measurement and educational statistics, and professor at The University of Iowa.
Lindquist believed that a college admission examination should assess the skills and knowledge that students learn in high school and that are required for college-level study. True to this philosophy, the ACT Assessment® is, by design, aligned to curriculum and is a well established predictor of success in first-year college courses. The assessment includes a battery of high school curriculum–based achievement tests designed to assess students’ critical reasoning and higher-order thinking skills in English, mathematics, reading, and science.
The Education Trust The Education Trust works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, kindergarten through college. The organization focuses its work on the institutions most often left behind in initiatives to improve education—those serving concentrations of low-income, Latino, African American, or Native American students. The Trust was established in 1990 by the American Association for Higher Education as a special project to encourage colleges and universities to support K–12 reform.
Since then, it has grown into an independent, nonprofit organization whose mission is to help schools and colleges work for all of the students they serve. The Trust staff spends most of its time providing assistance to local, state, and national leaders in developing both policies and improvement strategies to raise achievement and close gaps between groups, K–16. iv EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The results of this study are clear: In high schools with significant minority and low-income student populations, students can be prepared to succeed in credit-bearing first-year college courses.
And we know that the skills expected for college are also the skills needed to enter today’s workforce. So whether students plan further education or work after high school graduation, they need to graduate college-ready. These are the common components we found at the high schools we studied that put students On Course for Success: High-level college-oriented content. Successful students were enrolled in college-preparatory courses in their high schools and learning the skills they need to be ready for college-level work.
The content of these courses put students on a trajectory toward college from Grade 9 through Grade 12. Well-qualified teachers. Teachers of successful high school courses were qualified to teach their academic discipline in high school, and many held advanced degrees. Flexible pedagogical styles. The teachers commanded flexible pedagogical styles, allowing informal rapport with their students. To assist in the comprehension of difficult concepts, the teachers made connections to former learning, to current events, to popular culture, and across the curriculum.
Tutorial support. In the 10 schools and 69 courses we studied, both the schools and the teachers of the courses supported students with tutorial help, both formally and informally. Our findings for each academic discipline give details about the components above that put students On Course for Success. The report includes model course syllabi and descriptions of key courses in English, mathematics, and science drawn from the materials submitted by the teachers, interview transcripts, and classroom observations.
These sets of course-specific descriptions and materials can be used to facilitate reevaluation of high school curricula that will prepare all students for college and work. Our study was a joint effort of ACT and The Education Trust, organizations devoted to access to and success in higher education for all students. Our two organizations are especially interested in those academic factors that increase the probability of success for minority and low-income students. Reason for the study. Nearly 75% of U. S. igh school graduates enroll in college within two years of graduation, yet fewer than 56% of the spring 2004 high school graduates who took the ACT Assessment® took a core college-preparatory curriculum in high school. Even among those who report taking a core high school curriculum—four or more years of English and three or more years each of math, social sciences, and natural sciences—a significant number are still not prepared to succeed in creditbearing first-year college courses. Not only is taking the right number of courses important, but taking the right kind of courses is critical to student readiness for college-level work.
What, we wanted to discover, do these right kind of courses look like? What are the components within these courses that put students On Course for Success? v Method of the study. In high schools with significant minority and lowincome student populations, we studied those courses in which students were successful on the ACT Assessment in English, mathematics, and science. In the academic year 2003–2004, we examined English, mathematics, and science classes in 10 schools across the country that met these criteria: ¦ the school population was 40% or more minority and/or 50% or more ow-income; ¦ 65% or more of the students met or exceeded an 18 on the ACT Assessment English Test; ¦ 35% or more of the students met or exceeded a 22 on the ACT Assessment Mathematics Test; and/or ¦ 24% or more of the students met or exceeded a 24 on the ACT Assessment Science Test. ACT scores were those reported for the 2001 and 2002 graduating classes. The 10 schools were provided with the names of the students who met the score criteria. The study team asked the schools to identify the courses each student took and the teachers who taught them.
We surveyed the teachers about their education and years of experience, philosophy of teaching, materials and textbooks, curricula, classroom practices, and participation in professional development. All 10 schools were visited for a full day by teams including members from both ACT and The Education Trust; the study team observed 41 classes and conducted teacher interviews. Principals were interviewed over the telephone after these visits. Recommendations supported by our findings: 1. All students should be provided with a rigorous college-oriented curriculum. 2.
All students should have the benefit of teachers qualified to teach these rigorous college-oriented courses. 3. All students should be provided with help outside the classroom when needed. 4. The content of current core preparatory courses should be reevaluated to ensure that they are focused on the rigorous skills needed for college and work readiness. Continuing the research: Our study was modest in scope. Much research remains to be done. Future research might examine questions such as: ¦ Which teaching practices and curricula are the most effective at closing aps among students who enter high school at different levels of academic achievement? ¦ How do schools ensure that students most in need of help receive it? ¦ At what point in their schooling are students moved toward the college trajectory? vi I. INTRODUCTION For a healthy, prosperous, democratic society, all youth should be able to take advantage of educational opportunities beyond high school. In the 21st century, at least some postsecondary education will be necessary for economic success—even survival—in an economy where the exchange of information dominates the world of work.
Despite the importance of continuing education, too many high school students graduate without the skills they need to be successful in collegelevel courses. This is especially true for low-income students and students of color, too many of whom were not placed in a college-preparatory curriculum in high school even though research shows that the strength of the high school curriculum is the largest predictor of success in college (Green, Dugoni, Ingels, & Camburn, 1995; Greene & Forster, 2003; Council of Chief State School Officers, 2003).
Fortunately, there are schools that defy these trends— schools with substantial enrollments of low-income and minority students whose performance on the ACT Assessment® is unusually strong. The objective of this study was to look closely at the courses offered in these high schools and find out what was in them that enabled students to perform well enough on the ACT Assessment to ensure a smooth transition to college-level work. Such high school courses prepare students for likely success whether they elect to enter college, career training, or directly into the workforce upon high school graduation.
Too many high school students graduate without the skills they need to be successful in college-level courses. . . . Schools defying that trend participated in the ACT–Education Trust study. The study team’s goal was to describe the factors that contributed to student success in a way that would be helpful to the many dedicated teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders, particularly those in high poverty and high minority schools, who are working to improve the quality of the ourses they offer to their students. Why all students need to be ready for college The benefits of college to the individual, as shown in Figure 1. 1, are substantial. College graduates earn nearly twice as much as those with high school only; they are more likely to be and remain employed; and they are better able to adapt to the ever-changing workplace (U. S. Department of Labor, 2003). 1 Figure 1. 1 Education and Training Pay Unemployment rate in 2003 2. 9% 3. % 4. 0% 5. 2% 5. 5% 8. 8% Master’s degree Bachelor’s degree Associate degree Some college, no degree High school graduate Some high school, no diploma Median weekly earnings in 2003 $1,064 $900 $672 $622 $554 $396 NOTES: Unemployment and earnings for workers 25 and older, by educational attainment; earnings for full-time wage and salary workers Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics But the benefits of a better-educated citizenry to our society are perhaps even greater.
More education develops workers better prepared to strengthen our economy; it grows problem solvers for our communities; and it narrows the income gap between racial and ethnic groups (Sum, 1999). Young people were the first to see these advantages: nearly three quarters of new high school graduates are continuing to postsecondary education within two years of leaving high school (Berkner & Chavez, 1997). Many more follow over the course of their working lives.
Nearly 45% of students who declare an intention to go to college after high school have not taken the collegepreparatory courses that will allow them to proceed to credit-bearing courses. Unfortunately, for a large number of new college students, the educational system has not kept pace with the changing world, and the years these young people spent in high school were not enough to prepare them to be successful at college-level work.
Previous research shows that the most important predictor of success in college is the quality and intensity of the high school curriculum (Adelman, 1999). Students who take a complete collegepreparatory sequence of courses not only do better on college admissions examinations such as the ACT Assessment, but are more likely to succeed once they are admitted, no matter whether they go to two- or four-year colleges, liberal arts colleges, or state universities. This is especially important for minority and low-income students.
Despite the importance of college-preparatory courses for these students— often the first in their families to attempt college-going—nearly 45% of students who declare an intention to go to college after high school have not taken the college-preparatory courses that will allow them to proceed to credit-bearing courses, according to ACT’s own research (ACT, 2004). Instead, too many—nearly 30% of all entering freshmen—end up taking remedial courses in either mathematics, reading, or writing (National Center for Education Statistics, 1999).
For postsecondary institutions, the costs of remediation are a constant strain on resources—resources that could be better spent supporting the 2 academic program. But there are consequences for students, too. Those who take two or more remedial courses are unlikely to graduate, even after six years of college; half of those who take only one remedial math course are unlikely to persist to the degree (Adelman, 1999). A disproportionate number of these students come from low-income, African American, or Latino families.
What is known about college readiness Society would not be missing out on the potential of these young people if high school had prepared them well enough to undertake college-level work (ACT, 2004). Studies have identified the courses essential for college success: mathematics at least through Algebra II; four years of collegepreparatory English, both literature and composition; and three or more years of science. These are the minimum Those who take two or more (Barth, 2003; ACT, 2004).
Yet fewer than 6 in 10 (56%) of ACT-tested graduates in the class of 2004 took the recommended core coursework for college-bound students. This percentage has changed very little over the past decade. ACT score results indicate that students who take the recommended core curriculum in high school are better prepared for college coursework than those who don’t, regardless of gender, race, or ethnicity. As Figure 1. 2 shows, graduates in the class of 2004 who took the core curriculum earned an average ACT composite score of 21. 9, a full 2. 5 points higher than those graduates who did not (19. ). 25 remedial courses are unlikely to graduate, even after six years of college; half of those who take only one remedial math course are unlikely to persist to the degree. Figure 1. 2 Average ACT Scores by College-Preparatory Core Coursework 23 22. 3 21. 5 21 19. 8 19 19. 1 18. 7 19. 6 21. 7 21. 7 21. 9 19. 4 17 15 Core Non-core Core Non-core Core Non-core Core Non-core Core Non-core English Math Reading Science Composite 3 Taking more advanced courses even beyond the core college-prep sequence also pays big dividends in both ACT performance and eventual college success.
For example, students who took Trigonometry in addition to Algebras I & II and Geometry outscored those who took just the three core courses by 2. 6 points on the ACT Assessment Mathematics Test (see Figure 1. 3). Those who took an additional advanced math course beyond Trigonometry earned an even higher average score on the Mathematics Test. 24 Figure 1. 3 23 22 21 20. 3 20 19 18 17. 2 17 16 15 14 Less than 3 years math Algebra I, II, Geometry Algebra I, II, Geometry, Trigonometry Algebra I, II, Geometry, Trigonometry, Other Advanced Math Average ACT Math Score by High School Math Course Sequence 2. 1 1. 8 2. 6 17. 7 0. 5 Similarly, students who took Biology, Chemistry, and Physics outscored those who took General Science, Biology, and Chemistry by a full 3 points on the ACT Assessment Science Test (see Figure 1. 4). Even more impressively, students who took Biology, Chemistry, and Physics outscored those who took less than three years of science by more than 4 points. 4 25 24 23 22 21 20. 1 20 1. 2 19 18 17 16 Less than 3 years science General Science, Biology, Chemistry Biology, Chemistry, Physics Figure 1. 4 Average ACT Science Score by High School Science Course Sequence 23. 1 3. 0 18. 9
An analysis of the relationship between course taking and ACT Assessment performance suggests a need to look deeper into the definition of what constitutes minimal preparation for success in college. In mathematics, for example, to have even a 75% chance of getting a C or better in the first credit-bearing college mathematics course, students must score a 22 on the ACT Assessment Mathematics Test. Only about 13% of the students who complete mathematics through Algebra I, Algebra II, and Geometry reach that level; and the percent grows to only 37% for students who complete Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, and Trigonometry.
Research conducted by the U. S. Department of Education had a similar finding when the dependent measure was college graduation, rather than ACT test performance. Completion of at least the course beyond Algebra II seemed to make the biggest difference (Adelman, 1999). Despite the importance of high school mathematics to college success, only 39% of all ACT-tested graduates reported taking four or more years of math in high school, while just 42% reported taking three or more years of science including physics.
Moreover, even when students complete such courses, as many as 60% and 74%, respectively, are not mastering the skills they need to succeed in credit-bearing math and science courses. 5 On Course for Success In undertaking this study, we sought to answer some key questions about how to improve student preparation for college. To begin our search, we chose to look at high schools that have been particularly successful in guiding their students, including minority and low-income students, into courses that enable them to do well on college admissions tests such as the ACT
Assessment and subsequently in college. These high schools formed the foundation of the On Course for Success study. The research question that guided the study addressed a concern for both sponsoring organizations, ACT and The Education Trust: What are the components of high school courses that prepare students for successful entry into postsecondary education without the need for remediation? This report presents the findings from the study. It is primarily intended for: ¦ administrators and practitioners involved in the design of courses for high chool students, textbook adoptions, the development of support systems for students, and the hiring of appropriately certified teachers; ¦ teachers in high school classrooms and first-year college courses, as well as those faculty charged with preparing future teachers; ¦ policymakers at all levels concerned with secondary and postsecondary education and, in particular, with what it will take to ensure that all students leave high school able to proceed smoothly to postsecondary education; ¦ business and community leaders, and other advocates concerned with he preparation of the next generation; and ¦ parents and students themselves who want to know how to plan for the future during and after high school. Section II describes the study and the characteristics of the participating schools. Section III describes our general findings. Sections IV, V, and VI describe our findings in the three academic disciplines we studied—English, mathematics, and science, respectively; Research Question: What each of these sections contains a composite course syllabus and a description of the course content for significant are the components of high courses.
Section VII concludes the report with a discussion school courses that prepare of the findings, recommendations, and suggestions for students for successful further research. entry into postsecondary education without the need for remediation? 6 II. THE STUDY We undertook this study in order to look at the components of high school courses that prepare students for successful entry into postsecondary education, searching for schools where there are substantial populations of minority and low-income students and whose students take the ACT Assessment and perform well on the test. Selecting the Sample
Rather than simply looking for above-average performance, we wanted to anchor our analysis in more meaningful benchmarks, identifying schools that get significant numbers of their students to the threshold performance levels that signify a strong likelihood of success in freshman-level college courses. Fortunately, in establishing these criteria, the study team was able to draw on a study that ACT conducted in spring 2003 using data from June 1990 through June 2003 to identify ACT Assessment scores associated with successful performance in first-year college courses in English composition, college algebra, and college biology.
Data from a sample of 232 postsecondary institutions were used to identify these scores. The definition of “success” was based on students’ grades in first-year college courses. ACT identified high schools with significant The results showed that students with an ACT Assessment enrollments of low-income English score of 18 typically have a 50% chance of earning a B or higher grade, or an 80% chance of a C or higher grade, and/or minority students in standard English composition.
Moreover, students with an whose students achieved ACT Assessment Mathematics score of 22 typically have a the college-readiness 50% chance of earning a B or higher grade, or a 75% chance benchmarks. of a C or higher grade, in college algebra. Students with an ACT Assessment Science score of 24 have a 50% chance of earning a B or higher grade, or a 79% chance of a C or higher grade, in college biology. 1 Thus, students who meet or exceed these college-readiness ACT Assessment benchmarks are likely to be successful in entry-level, credit-bearing college courses. ACT aintains a comprehensive database of test takers, which was used to identify high schools with significant enrollments of low-income and/or minority students that were successful in enabling their students to reach these threshold scores. Our criteria were as follows: ¦ The school population was 40% or more minority and/or 50% or more low-income; ¦ 65% or more of the students met or exceeded an 18 on the ACT Assessment English Test; ¦ 35% or more of the students met or exceeded a 22 on the ACT Assessment Mathematics Test; and/or ¦ 24% or more of the students met or exceeded a 24 on the ACT Assessment Science Test.
Across the country, 18 schools that met these criteria were identified, and all were invited to take part in the study. Of these, 9 agreed. In addition, 3 schools were invited that scored at the top of the ACT Assessment results for the 2001 and 2002 academic years, regardless of their population. 1 The English benchmark score is based on 84,811 students, the Mathematics benchmark score is based on 38,160 students, and the Science benchmark score is based on 23,320 students. 7 Of these 3 schools, 1 agreed to participate—Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati, Ohio—bringing the total of participating schools to 10.
However, because the courses studied at Walnut Hills revealed no discernable differences from those studied at the other 9 schools, all 10 schools were treated in the same fashion. Table 2. 1 lists and gives characteristics of the participating schools. Table 2. 1 Characteristics of Participating Schools Percent meeting criteria during academic year ending Academic English Discipline(s) [Surveyed] 2001 2002 English Science English Math Science English Math Science English Math Science English English Math Science English 68 65 Math 2001 2002 Science 2001 25 2002 29 Free/Reduced
Ethnic Lunch Minorities* 1999 2000 48 1999 43 2000 46 School Auburn High School 5110 Auburn Street Rockford, Illinois Booker T. Washington High School 1514 E. Zion Street Tulsa, Oklahoma 83 83 42 41 37 43 24 22 51 52 Del Norte High School 5323 Montgomery NE Albuquerque, New Mexico 67 68 39 39 26 28 18 20 56 58 Evanston Township High School 1600 Dodge Avenue Evanston, Illinois 74 67 56 51 40 37 27 48 47 Lewis Cass Technical High School 2421 Second Avenue Detroit, Michigan 65 65 28 24 97 97
Murphy High School 100 S. Carlen Street Mobile, Alabama 69 71 36 35 28 24 19 31 53 54 Newton County High School 16255 Highway 503 N. Decatur, Mississippi 65 76 57 58 30 32 Rufus King International Baccalaureate High School 1801 W. Olive Street Milwaukee, Wisconsin Math Science 39 46 27 29 71 69 61 61 South Texas High School for Health Professions 700 Med High Drive Mercedes, Texas Math English Math Science 50 43 56 60 78 79 Walnut Hills High School 3250 Victory Parkway Cincinnati, Ohio 91 92 74 76 53 54 8 32 34 *Ethnic minorities include African American, American Indian, Mexican American/Chicano, and Puerto Rican/Cuban/Other Hispanic. 8 The 10 schools varied by population and geography. ¦ They were located in nine states; ¦ Two were predominantly minority: Lewis Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Michigan, was 97% African American, and South Texas High School for the Health Professions in Mercedes, Texas, was more than 75% Hispanic; ¦ One school was rural (Newton County High School in Decatur,
Mississippi); several (including Rufus King International Baccalaureate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Del Norte High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Murphy High School in Mobile, Alabama) served inner-city populations; ¦ Four schools (Lewis Cass Technical High School; Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati, Ohio; Rufus King International Baccalaureate High School; and Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma) restricted admission to students who passed specific entrance tests; ¦ The two Illinois schools (Evanston Township High School in Evanston,
Illinois, and Auburn High School in Rockford, Illinois) were part of a statewide program in which all juniors enrolled in Illinois public high schools take the Prairie State Achievement Exam, which includes the ACT Assessment; and ¦ All the schools offered students the Advanced Placement (AP) program that gives college credit for courses in high school, along with honors, enriched, and gifted classes; moreover, three schools offered International Baccalaureate (IB) courses. Data collection
The study team provided each of the 10 schools with the names of students who met the score criteria based on their performance on the ACT Assessment. The schools used the list of student names to identify the courses each student took and the teachers who taught those courses during the 2001 and 2002 academic years. The courses were mainly Grade 10 and 11 courses (a few Grade 9 courses were included) because our interest was in those courses that Surveys were sent to prepared students to be successful on the ACT Assessment, the teachers to collect which is most commonly first taken in a student’s junior year. nformation about their We did not look at Grade 12 courses as such, although a few education and years of were identified as Grades 11–12. The study team then worked with the schools to identify the teachers who taught the experience, philosophy courses that represented the largest enrollment of students of teaching, material and who met the score criteria. textbook use, curricula, classroom practices, A school liaison was identified to facilitate the gathering and and participation in transmitting of information to the study team. Through this professional development. iaison, surveys were sent to the teachers to collect information about their education and years of experience, philosophy of teaching, material and textbook use, curricula, classroom practices (e. g. , lecture, discussion, and group work), and participation in professional development. Each teacher was asked to submit instructional activities (e. g. , descriptive lesson plans, student handouts, directions for tasks or projects, and assessments) for three consecutive weeks, ideally to be drawn from the second nine weeks of the first semester (October–November 2003). 9
The survey information received was tabulated, entered into a database, and reviewed. The study team met twice to evaluate the survey data and instructional materials. The information obtained was analyzed using a constant comparative method by two or more members of the study team. In particular, the instructional materials were reviewed to determine the level of sophistication of the content and of the classroom activities, including tests, quizzes, and assessments where available. After reviewing the materials, content experts from the study team conducted day-long visits to each of the ten schools during April and May 2004.
Classroom observations and follow-up teacher interviews were conducted using preestablished forms. The teachers’ responses to the survey, the teacher philosophy statements, and the instructional materials submitted were used to identify those classrooms deemed to be places of college-preparatory thought and study. The classrooms observed were those the Each teacher was asked study team judged to have those qualities as well as to submit instructional places where students of color were being activities for three encouraged to gain skills needed to perform at the consecutive weeks; the highest level.
In all, 41 classroom observations were instructional materials conducted: seven English 10 courses, eleven English were reviewed to 11 courses, three Geometry courses, three Algebra II determine the level of courses, six Precalculus courses, six Biology courses, sophistication of the three Chemistry courses, and two Physics courses. content and of the classroom activities. At a third meeting, members of the study team coded information onto a mapping framework, compiling information that appeared on multiple collection tools.
Whenever teachers referred to a particular teaching strategy or pedagogical stance in a collection tool, such as the transcribed interviews, the surveys, or the instructional materials, or if the study team observed teachers using that strategy or stance in the classroom, that information was coded onto the mapping framework. Once the coding of information from all teachers had been completed, the framework was reviewed to determine which strategies and practices were most commonly employed.
If the strategy or practice appeared on the framework numerous times, the use of that strategy or practice was identified as a finding. After the mapping frameworks were completed and as conclusions were being drawn from the data, members of the study team further substantiated findings in telephone interviews with the principal of each of the 10 schools studied. Working collaboratively over three months, the study team drafted the findings reported here. Content experts from the study team conducted day-long visits to each of the 10 schools during April and May 2004. 10
Two important points need to be emphasized: 1. Because of the research design, we are extrapolating from student results to courses. We looked at data and information from teachers now teaching courses that in 2001 and 2002 produced student scores on the ACT Assessment meeting our criteria. We are making an assumption (perhaps justified) that curriculum and pedagogy have not changed significantly in the subsequent year. 2. We looked only at a specific set of courses offered by the school. We cannot therefore make any statements about the quality of the overall school program.
Composite syllabi and course descriptions To acquire a more complete picture of each of the eight courses studied, the study team carefully reviewed the course syllabi submitted by the English, mathematics, and science teachers participating in the On Course for Success study. Based on these course syllabi, lists of major and minor components were created. Table 2. 2 provides a compendium of the components found and descriptions of each. 11 Table 2. 2 Compilation of Course Syllabi Major and minor components I. Course Description/Overview ¦ Prerequisites ¦ Welcome statement ¦
Purpose(s)/goal(s) of course Description The type of information provided in this part of the course syllabi varied across the three academic disciplines and their respective teachers. Generally speaking, the description included academic requirements needed in order to take the course, statements about the importance of the course to the students’ lives or education, a greeting to welcome students to the course, and/or a brief summary outlining the intended focus of the course, including assigned tasks and the use of technology or tools.
The specificity of content cited also differed across the course syllabi. Some syllabi included topics or areas of study, while others related each topic or area to a specific set of skills or objectives students were to master. Some course syllabi provided a detailed outline of the course that included the following: topics or themes to be taught (on daily, weekly, or semesterly basis); specific works, authors, or pages from a textbook to be read; assessments used/given; a list of specific assignments to complete; and due dates for assignments/projects.
The syllabi reviewed also contained lists of supplies or resources that students needed to obtain or consult. Some syllabi provided explanations for using or recommendations for purchasing specific materials. Again, this list varied across the three disciplines and course titles. II. Course Content ¦ Topics/themes/areas of study ¦ Skills/objectives ¦ Reading/writing requirements ¦ Course calendar/schedule outline III. Course Materials ¦ Textbooks ¦ General supplies (e. g. , pencils/pens, paper) ¦ Calculators ¦ Lab equipment ¦ Mathematical tools (e. . , ruler, compass, protractor) IV. Course Policies ¦ Attendance/absences/tardiness ¦ Make-up work/late work ¦ Classroom rules/expectations ¦ Disciplinary policy ¦ Passes ¦ Homework policy V. Grading Policy/Assessment ¦ Grading scale ¦ Point value of items graded ¦ Calculation of grades ¦ Extra credit ¦ Types of assessments ¦ Common assessment ¦ Retesting ¦ Progress reports VI. Course Procedures ¦ Course format/pacing ¦ Work requirements ¦ Labs/group work ¦ Notebook/binders ¦ Parent-student signature or contracts
This component of the syllabi covered a range of policies that intertwine, clarifying the roles and responsibilities of both the teacher and students, for example, providing information about students’ responsibilities for completing homework, quizzes, or exams missed due to illness or school events. Classroom rules students were expected to follow or behaviors students needed to demonstrate on a daily basis, and consequences for inappropriate behaviors or for not following school or classroom policies (e. g. , honor code, cheating, plagiarism) also were included.
Most of the course syllabi included information about grading practices. Typical statements included the grading scale used for the course (e. g. , 90–100 = A, 93–100 = A); the point value of tests, quizzes, homework, etc. ; and how final and semester grades were calculated (the assignments/assessments graded and their percentage value [e. g. , homework 10%, quizzes 10%, and exams 80%]). In some cases, there was information about the assessment methods used, a description of a common assessment (such as a literary analysis paper) given to all students at a specific grade level, or whether retesting was allowed for quizzes and exams.
This component described the logistics of the course: what a typical classroom period might look like and how to perform mundane or specific tasks. For example, students might be given explicit instructions on how to write or format specific types of essays or asked to follow a specific process for identifying or turning in their homework. In several courses, teachers provided specific information on how to conduct labs (including safety), group work, or how to maintain a notebook/binder (e. g. , a folder that contained a variety of materials such as definitions, examples, and explanations given in class; graded tests and quizzes).
Some course syllabi required parent and student signatures either as a formal agreement or to communicate the goals of the course. This component seemed to be sprinkled throughout the course syllabi. Based on their previous classroom experiences, teachers provided students with advice on how to achieve success in the course. This component provided school and home telephone numbers, e-mail and school web site addresses, or conference/prep period times in which to contact the teacher to address questions or concerns.
Some of the science course syllabi offered ideas for additional learning opportunities such as the science fair or internships. VII. Personal Statement ¦ Words of wisdom ¦ Pedagogical assumptions VIII. Additional Information ¦ Contact information ¦ School-related opportunities ¦ Extra help 12 The course syllabi that appear in Sections IV, V, and VI of this report, one for each of the eight courses, are a synthesis of the information submitted. Because of the variability across both the academic disciplines and the eight courses, the syllabi provided may or may not include each of the eight major components listed in Table 2. . The course descriptions that follow the course syllabi were derived from objectives, syllabi, and course materials provided by the teachers of the courses as well as the observations of classrooms and teacher interviews. The courses were successful, by our definition, because students enrolled in them achieved at levels predicting success in the respective first-year college courses. We offer these course syllabi and course descriptions as a framework for administrators or teachers as they contemplate instructional changes in their schools, such as designing, refining, or reevaluating new or existing courses.
We offer these course syllabi and course descriptions as a framework for administrators and teachers as they contemplate instructional changes in their schools, such as designing, refining, or reevaluating new or existing courses. Reporting the findings The names of individual schools are not used in the following sections of this report. For the reader’s benefit, general statements apply to what we documented across all the schools, with qualifications (the term most means more than 80%, some means 50%–80%, and a few means less than 50%) where appropriate. 13
III. GENERAL FINDINGS In all 10 schools, the students identified from the ACT database as having achieved the college readiness benchmarks had been enrolled in courses designed to prepare them for college. Students in these courses were on a trajectory that would provide them with the skills and knowledge expected in college. In this study, we looked only at courses on this college-oriented trajectory. We did not examine courses in other curricular paths, so we cannot say anything about their content or quality of instruction, nor about any school as a whole.
However, we did find students from both majority and minority groups enrolled in the high-level courses we studied. Once enrolled in these courses, students were provided with four resources that helped them meet the ACT Assessment college readiness benchmarks. These resources are: ¦ college-oriented content in the courses; ¦ qualified and experienced teachers; ¦ teaching that is flexible and responsive to students; and ¦ extra student support when needed. 1. College-oriented content in the courses All schools offered coherent sequences of courses designed to prepare students from Grade 9 through Grade 12 for postsecondary education.
Curriculum content was college preparatory at a level aimed toward successful transition to college. As such, the content was at a level beyond that of most state and district standards. Nearly all courses used textbooks, but their usage varied. The majority of mathematics and about half of the science and English courses were shaped by textbooks; the mathematics courses, in particular, were driven by textbooks. Across subjects, teachers reported using textbooks daily, especially in math and science courses where textbooks were used for homework, quizzes, and as a reference.
At the same time, teachers in these courses also drew on their own experience to add materials. For example, teachers used full texts, separate from anthologies, in English classes; worksheets in mathematics; and manipulatives and journal and newspaper articles in science. Teachers also used technology: calculators, audiovisual equipment, and computers. 2. Qualified and experienced teachers All of the teachers of the courses we examined were certified in their subject. Nearly all had a master’s degree or higher and at least one degree in the content area. A few had experience teaching at the postsecondary level.
Three were National Board Certified. Most of the teachers were experienced, some with as much as 35 years; only four had been teaching 5 years or less. In both education and experience, they are atypical of teachers in high poverty and high minority schools—many of whom are inexperienced and teaching outside of their own area of academic study (Haycock, 1998). 14 In addition to their teaching responsibilities, these teachers tended to be previously or currently involved with duties such as acting as department chairs, serving on standards and curriculum committees, and providing professional development to their peers. . Teaching that is flexible and responsive to students The predominant mode of instruction was what the study team calls “exposition and questioning. ” The study surveys asked teachers about the most prevalent mode of teaching they employed. While most chose “lecture,” the 41 classroom observations showed that traditional delivery from a podium was not what the teachers meant. The study team decided to call the activity “exposition and questioning,” because we observed the teacher explaining a point and asking the students questions to check for student understanding.
The pedagogy was clearly teacher-directed, but, in most A mathematics teacher said: “I classes, there was a constant flow of questioning, believe that successful teachers both from the teacher to check for understanding and must establish good rapport with provoke further thought, and from the students their students. I make it my goal to seeking clarification and help. For the most part, the teachers conveyed enthusiasm for their academic discipline. They had an easy rapport with students, exchanging jokes and casual remarks as they worked with them.
They helped students to make meaningful connections to the content they were teaching by using examples from previously learned material, popular culture, current events, and students’ own lives. speak to each student in class at least once. I make it a point to go to each student’s desk and look at his or her work at least once during a class period and to give feedback on the work’s accuracy. ” In most of the observed classrooms, no time was wasted, despite teachers’ indulgence in a few minutes of banter with students as they took their seats.
The lessons and assignments submitted for review and the activities observed were found to be focused and relevant to the topic. Most courses were also characterized by attention to the language and rules of discourse in the disciplines. This means that students were asked to think and behave like English scholars, mathematicians, or scientists as part of their coursework. Most teachers insisted on good Students were asked to work habits such as note-taking, found think and behave like universally across the schools, with some English scholars, teachers monitoring students’ note-taking as mathematicians, or they walked around the classroom. cientists as part of their coursework. In general, through their obvious love of their academic discipline (English, mathematics, and science), their relations with the students, and their focus on the material in the curriculum, these teachers conveyed to the students the importance of what they were teaching and their expectations that the students could master the work and move to the next course. 15 It’s also worth noting that with one exception, the schools maintained traditional bell schedules and 45- or 50-minute periods. Only one high school had block scheduling with 90-minute periods.
Of the nine schools with traditional schedules, one had a block schedule for the Honors program at Grades 8 and 9, while another had a block schedule at Grade 9. 4. Extra support for students All 10 schools provided support for students by giving them time outside class with tutors, teachers, and other helpers, including peers and adults from the community. In some schools, the tutoring program was organized at the school level. For example, each academic department in one school was required to offer a “help night” once a week to students.
Across the 10 schools, All 10 schools provided tutoring help was not always school-wide, but, almost support for students by universally, individual teachers offered extra help outside of giving them time outside class and reminded their students that they were available. class with tutors, teachers, and other helpers, including peers and adults from the community. The following sections will describe in more detail how these four resources were exhibited in the context of the English, mathematics, and science courses that were part of the study. 6 IV. ENGLISH Eight out of the 10 schools met the English score criterion. Materials and surveys were collected from 31 teachers covering three Grade 9, twelve Grade 10, and sixteen Grade 11 courses. As shown in Table 4. 1, these courses ranged from general English to “gifted honors,” and most could be characterized as college-oriented. Table 4. 1 English Courses by Title (31) Grade 9 courses (3) English 1–2 English 9 Honors English 1–2 Grade 10 courses (12) Grade 11 courses (16)
English 3 and 4 (3) 2 English Honors Honors English 10 (2) Academy English 3–4 English II Pre-AP/English III (2) English 10 English 10 Gifted Honors English 10 Enriched English 5 and 6 (3) English 11 AA English 11 Gifted Honors Honors English 11 (2) Honors English 5 and 6 Academy AP English 5 and 6 English IBHL 1 English Language Comp/AP (2) English III 3 English Honors (2) English 2/H Journalism Three quarters of the teachers had been teaching for 10 or more years, with an overall average of 19 years.
In addition, 83% of the teachers had master’s degrees, and nearly as many had at least one degree in English or a related discipline, with the rest having majors in education or English education. Three quarters of All teachers were certified to teach English. Two were the teachers had National Board Certified. been teaching for 10 Course content The study of English is the study of text, whether written, spoken, or heard. The rigor of an English course can, in many ways, be gauged by the sophistication of the texts students read and the type of writing they are required to produce. r more years, with an overall average of 19 years. Many of the assigned texts in the courses studied were typical of books and novels read by high school students. Indeed, they were probably encountered in high school for the first time by readers of this report. That old standby Julius Caesar was taught in five of the twelve Grade 10 courses surveyed; The Great Gatsby and Lord of the Flies were taught in two of the twelve Grade 10 courses surveyed; and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Macbeth, The Crucible, Death of a Salesman, and The Scarlet Letter each appeared more than once on Grade 11 syllabi.
All of these works were listed as some of the most frequently taught book-length works by Arthur Applebee in his seminal 1993 study, Literature in the Secondary School: Studies of Curriculum and Instruction in the United States. Four texts not mentioned in Applebee’s study, but increasingly appearing in 17 high school English courses—A Raisin in the Sun, A Lesson Before Dying, Black Boy, and Fahrenheit 451—were also frequently mentioned on the English syllabi studied.
In addition to these commonly assigned texts, the courses in the study featured works by authors that do not typically show up on high school reading lists and are unusually sophisticated for the grade level of the students. In Grade 10 courses, we found In addition to these students reading Pirandello, Achebe, Malamud, Nabokov, commonly assigned texts, Plato, Walker, and Shelley. One non-honors Grade 10 class the courses in the study members of the study team observed was ending the school featured works by authors year by reading Heart of Darkness. hat do not typically show up on high school reading lists and are unusually sophisticated for the grade level of the students. Grade 11 course syllabi listed works by the playwright August Wilson and the novelists Toni Morrison and Chinua Achebe, Dante’s Inferno, The Screwtape Letters, The Grand Inquisitor, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Paradise Lost, Camille Paglia’s Sexual Personae, and works by Borges, Lorca, Frye, Nietzsche, Flaubert, Hwang, Solzhenitsyn, and Garcia Marquez. The average number of full-length texts read in a year was seven.
In one Grade 11 class, students were asked to read 14 full-length works as well as 12 essays. In a Grade 10 class, students read 32 short stories in addition to 4 full-length texts. Most of the teachers (83%) reported that they used textbooks of anthologized materials, but all of them supplemented with additional materials, particularly novels. Said one teacher: “I find most textbooks are limited in enrichment, so I use many different sources to enrich the topics I teach. The sources I use vary depending on my own reading, and what I think students need, when they need it. Clearly, not only do these courses require students continually challenge students to stretch their abilities with increasingly complex texts. One teacher said that in the college-oriented courses, the “pace is a little quicker, the material is certainly more abundant, and at times a little more challenging” than in other courses. to read a lot, they The importance of writing All of the interviewed English teachers said they emphasized writing in their classes. According to the study’s other methods of data collection, 62% of the English teachers reported giving writing assignments of one page or less t least weekly; 83% said they required students to complete a writing assignment of two or more pages at least monthly. Some national organizations, notably the Southern Regional Education Board, recommend more writing in high school courses (Southern Regional Education Board, 2004). Nonetheless, the courses in this study assigned slightly more writing than other surveys indicate is probably typical. The National Assessment of Educational Progress shows, for example, that 67% of 12th graders report having to write essays to “analyze or interpret something” at least once a month (U.
S. Department of Education, 2002). One teacher said that in the collegeoriented courses, the “pace is a little quicker, the material is certainly more abundant, and at times a little more challenging” than in other courses. 18 One teacher attributed the school’s success in English to a required onesemester course that focused entirely on writing. Teachers in a different school described how they worked collegially in their department to make sure that all aspects of grammar and modes of writing were covered over the students’ four years in high school.
The importance of writing as an assessment tool was also clear. In addition to short answer or multiple-choice tests, a full 97% of the English teachers reported using essays frequently to assess student performance. Language of the discipline These teachers asked students to use the language of the academic discipline—the student of English literature was trained to speak like a literary critic, and the developing writer, to think and write the way a professional writer does. Nearly three quarters of the English teachers cited the importance of using literary terms correctly.
One teacher called such terminology “the coin of the realm. We cannot speak in here unless we have the same language. ” Teachers asked students to use the language of the academic discipline—the student of English literature was trained to speak like a literary critic, and the developing writer, to think and write the way a professional writer does. The courses introduced students to the language of rhetorical analysis as well as the language and concepts of literary theory. A few featured other kinds of conceptual language, such as the language of philosophy.
Going well beyond the basics of “plot,” “symbol,” or “parallelism,” students in these courses learned to marshal such terms as “ethos,” “pathos,” and “logos” and to discuss existentialism, for example. Making connections The teachers made explicit connections between topics being taught and previously read texts, real-world situations and events, other topics, and the students’ own lives. The evidence of these connections found in the materials was reinforced by the teachers themselves in the interviews.
Teachers gave their Teachers used analogies, cited examples, and told stories in order students many to help advance students’ understanding. One teacher helped her entry points into students understand the African rites of initiation in the novel The the content. Dark Child by relating it to coming-of-age rituals in her students’ own lives, such as a prom or bar mitzvah. Another used The Lion King to help students analyze “The Fall of the House of Usher. ” Some teachers drew examples from books read earlier in the year, from other academic disciplines, popular culture, and the newspaper.
In this way, teachers gave their students many entry points into the content. Course syllabi and descriptions Following are composite syllabi and course descriptions, one each for Grade 10 English and Grade 11 English. 19 Model Course Syllabus—English—Grade 10 Course Description/Overview In this full-year English class you will be reading literature including short stories, poetry, plays, autobiographies, and novels written in different time periods and from different countries. It is my hope that as you read and analyze the literature you will be clarifying your own beliefs and values.
Class discussion is an integral part of our class, and I will do everything I can to make sure that all voices are heard in a supportive and encouraging environment. In addition to our literature study, you will be writing a great deal, in many genres. I will encourage you to find your voice in expository, persuasive, and creative writing. You will find a larger audience by participating in many writing contests. You will have an opportunity to do some journal writing, where you can express yourself in a less formal way and keep a record of your growth and development during sophomore year.
We will also apply ourselves to grammar study and vocabulary development. Course Content • Improving reading comprehension skills, including using structural elements of texts to enhance understanding and context to understand new vocabulary • Identifying main ideas, following an argument, understanding different perspectives • Understanding conventions of literary texts • Moving from simple comprehension toward critical evaluation of literature • Learning the language of literary criticism (e. g. feminist literary criticism) • Building critical reading and researching skills; applying critical theories to texts • Writing, researching, and revising at least four formal essays per quarter—expository, persuasive, and creative • Entering your writing in contests—including journalistic, creative, expository, and analytical writing in local and national contests • Learning how to evaluate your own writing process • Writing to learn in informal journals—your Writer’s Log • Learning to identify and correct your own grammatical errors • Presenting and evaluating three speeches of 3–4 minutes each • Presenting 40-minute lessons in a group • Analyzing and evaluating media (i. e. advertising, news programs) • Learning fundamental research skills Course Materials • Pen • The book and/or essays we’re reading • English binder (which I’ll call a notebook): You will need a three-ring binder to organize all your class notes, reading notes, and handouts. So that you will be able to reference material easily, and I will be able to find what I need to grade, I expect you to divide your binder into the following sections: Class Notes: • Daily notes will constitute the largest part of your total notebook grade. • I expect one page of notes per day. Each day’s notes are to be titled 20 • • • • and dated, beginning with a new sheet for each day of notes. Notes are always to be taken in INK.
You may use any color ink you choose, but pencil smears. Your notes should be in a clear, stand-alone format, taken in legible handwriting. Pages should be numbered. Please use college-ruled paper. Writing: • You will keep all handouts, such as the rubric, that pertain specifically to writing in this section. • Your own personal Writer’s Log will also go in this section. Grammar: • All handouts that pertain to grammar go in this section. • Also, keep any graded or ungraded exercises in this section. Vocabulary: • You will receive a list of “hot words” to use in your papers, which you will keep in this section. • Also, as we work on vocabulary throughout the year, keep all lists in this section.
Graded Papers: • Keep all graded papers in this section, for a couple of reasons: (1) It serves as your insurance in case there is a discrepancy between your records and mine. (2) I try to point out areas for improvement when I grade your writing, so I expect you to review past papers so that you won’t continue to make the same mistakes. Course Policies Attendance/Absences/Make-Up Work: Your presence (mind and body) in class is essential. If you MUST miss class due to illness or other circumstances beyond your control, it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to find out which assignments you missed, to get the handouts, and to borrow and copy* the class notes for the day(s) you were absent.
Because you will have at least a week’s lead time for papers and other major assignments, the due date remains the same regardless of your absence. If you are ill the day a paper is due, deliver it to a friend who can turn it in for you. If an emergency arises (illness or otherwise) and you absolutely cannot complete an assignment, I will need a note from your parent/guardian explaining the situation. *You can either copy notes by hand or make a photocopy. If you choose to make a photocopy, you need to highlight and/or annotate so that I know you read through the notes you borrowed. AVOID LATE ASSIGNMENTS! Your responsibilities in this class include keeping your own up-to-date assignment notebook, turning assignments in on time, and carefully guarding your class notebook.
If you do not understand an assignment, check with me either at school or phone me at home, making sure that you reach me far enough in advance that you will have time to finish the assignment. Saying “I didn’t understand” will not excuse any assignment you fail to turn in. If you are having personal difficulties apart from class, you need to come talk to me before an assigned due date so that we can make arrangements for you. Each day an assignment is late, I will subtract 10% from the grade. Once I have graded 21 and returned an assignment you cannot turn that assignment in for credit. You will be given at least a week’s lead time for out-of-class papers and other major assignments, so plan accordingly.
If you spend most of your weeknights working on daily homework for other classes, you will have to block out a significant amount of time on the weekend to prewrite, write, and revise your paper. Please, for your sake and mine, avoid the procrastination pitfalls that plague so many students. Important: Always have an extra hard copy of your paper in your hands. I try to be very careful about keeping track of things, but occasionally something gets misplaced. Your own hard copy is your insurance: I will not take the responsibility for your failure to insure yourself. Classroom Rules/Expectations: I expect you to be in class on time, with your notebook open and dated for that day’s notes, pen out, books ready, and backpack off your desktop. Have your assignment ready to hand in if one is due.
While I take attendance, you will have tim
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