High School Math -- in College

While Virginia has been celebrating its recently released 4-year high school graduation rate (81 percent -- higher than in many other states), an interesting article from Inside Higher Ed highlights the dismal 6-year graduation rates at many city colleges (19 percent at the University of the District of Columbia, lower for African American or Hispanic students).

As author Kevin Carey, a research and policy manager at Education Sector, notes in his story, a big part of the problem stems from the lack of preparation students have going in.

Carey cites the latest schedule of math classes at the University of the District of Columbia, which includes the following:

16 sections of “Basic Mathematics”
13 sections of “Introductory Algebra”
9 sections of “General College Math I”
7 sections of “General College Math II”
4 sections of “Intermediate Algebra”
2 sections each of “Pre Calc with Trig I,” “Pre Calc with Trig II,” “Calculus I,” “Calculus II,” and “Calculus III”
1 section each of “Differential Equations,” “Number Theory,” “Linear Algebra,” “Advanced Calculus,” etc.

Overall, nearly 70 percent of incoming UDC freshmen need some remediation. Like too many colleges and universities, UDC is often forced to be an essentially secondary — not postsecondary — institution. Any number of high schools in the DC metropolitan area offer proportionately more advanced math, Carey writes.

Wow. I can tell you for one point of comparison that Fairfax High School offers the following classes beyond Algebra II. The number in parentheses represents the number of students enrolled this semester.

Trigonometry (80)
Probability / Statistics (80)
Pre-Calculus (188)
Honors Pre-Calculus (114)
AP Calculus AB (94)
AP Calculus BC (46)
AP Computer Science (27)
AP Statistics (35)
Multivariable Calculus (9)
Matrix Algebra (9)

By Michael Alison Chandler  |  October 17, 2008; 11:20 AM ET  | Category:  Math Education Reform , Math Literacy
Previous: Quiz: Describe How and Why Math Works | Next: Math--Where the Girls Are?


Mr. Carey is correct. According to the College Board, the University of DC admits students "generally without regard to conventional academic qualifications, such as high school subjects, high school grades, and admission test scores. Virtually all applicants with high school diplomas or their equivalents are accepted, space permitting."

The College Board also says that 79% of the school's students come from D.C., which has the nation's lowest ACT scores (despite the nation's highest funding). In short, if the U of DC stopped offering coursework appropriate for students at the middle school and high school academic level, it would cease to exist.

Posted by: BradJolly | October 20, 2008 7:44 AM | Report abuse

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