October 28, 2005

Study Finds Students with Higher Math Skills More Likely to Plan on Attending College

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Daniel J. Pratt
Dan Pratt

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. -- Results from a recent study of more than 13,000 high school seniors from the class of 2004 showed that students with higher levels of math skills had higher expectations for earning postsecondary education degrees.

The study was conducted by RTI International as part of a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

The report, published in October 2005, is a follow-up to a 2002 study of the reading and math achievements of more than 15,000 10th graders nationwide in both public and private schools. In the follow-up study, conducted in the spring of 2004, the same students were interviewed, this time as high school seniors.

"The senior year of high school marks a crossroads where youths must make choices about their future," said Daniel Pratt, RTI’s project director on the study. "We wanted to see how a variety of factors including educational expectations and math proficiencies impacted students' decisions to further their education."

Overall, 69 percent of high school seniors participating in the study said they planned to earn a four-year college degree or higher. Those students with higher postsecondary educational expectations generally displayed higher levels of math skills.

However, the report also noted that many of those students who expected to earn a four-year degree could not perform intermediate and advanced math skills.

"Both the study from 2002 and the follow-up study in 2004 reveal that there is a need to increase math competency of our nation’s high school students," Pratt said. "Many students who plan to attend college may not have the math skills they need."

Data from the study will be used to help develop educational policies and practices designed to increase student performance and decrease drop-out rates.

The report can be downloaded free of charge from the electronic catalogue at the NCES Web site as report NCES 2006348. ELS 2002 base year findings also are available without cost through the NCES electronic catalogue (the 2002 data are reported in NCES 2005338).


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