More high school students are taking advanced classes, but test scores haven’t improved. What’s going on? Course title inflation, answers the New York Times.
Algebra II is sometimes just Algebra I. And College Preparatory Biology can be just Biology.
Thirteen percent of high school graduates completed a rigorous curriculum in 2009, up from 5 percent in 1990, a federal study of transcripts reported in April. But the testing trend lines are flat.
“There may be a ‘watering down’ of courses,” said Arnold A. Goldstein, a director at the National Center for Education Statistics.
Schools inflate course titles to help students satisfy tougher high school graduation requirements, researchers say. It looks good to have more students in high-level or Advanced Placement classes.
About 15 percent of eighth-grade math courses — with titles from remedial through “enriched” to Algebra I — use textbooks that cover less advanced material, a Michigan State study found.
In 2008, Dr. (William) Schmidt surveyed 30 high schools in Ohio and Michigan, finding 270 distinctly labeled math courses. In science, one district offered Basic Biology, BioScience, General Biology A and B — 10 biology courses in all.
“The titles didn’t reveal much at all about how advanced the course was,” he said.
As Advanced Placement enrollment has soared, so have failure rates. Arkansas sextupled the number of students taking AP exams; only 30 percent earn a passing grade of 3, 4 or 5. Some argue that students benefit from the challenge, even if they don’t do well enough to earn college credit.