Math and graduation: high school math & first year of college critical to completion

NOTE: This is the first article in a multi-part series about math in high school and college leading to completion of a degree or certificate.


A significant predictor of college success is when students meet the general education math requirement (also known as quantitative literacy, or QL) by the end of their first year of college, even if remediation is required.

Successful math preparation for college and career success is a key issue for the Utah State Board of Regents. In March 2014 the Board, with support of the presidents within the USHE, approved Recommendations on High School Mathematics Preparation to clearly define the expectations for Utah high school students to successfully prepare for college:

Math Recommendations

 

A recent analysis of math success from USHE and data from the Utah State Office of Education, with assistance from the Utah Data Alliance, looks at Utah public high school students who graduated between 2008- 2012 who enrolled at a USHE institution (most recent data available from the Utah State Office of Education). Here are five key findings:

  1. Taking math throughout ALL of high school is critical.
  2. According to ACT, a majority of USHE first-year freshmen are not considered college ready in Math.
  3. Completing the general math requirement by the end of the first year of college triples chances of success.
  4. Remedial math, when taken the first year, leads to success.
  5. As students’ course load increase, so does likelihood of passing college math in the first year of college.


Taking math throughout ALL of high school is critical.

Students who successfully completed high school math beyond Math 3 – or a third year of high school math (completing Algebra 2 under the old high school math curriculum) for their last math class in high school are twice as likely to successfully meet their college math requirement (QL requirement).

Percentage of USHE Students Who Complete QL Requirement
(categorized by the most recent High School math course Completed*)

*High School math courses required during 2008-12 cohort years.
**Current high school requirements (Math 1, 2, 3) cover the same concepts in “Algebra 2” and “Lower Math”, as well as some concepts included in Pre-Calculus course curriculum.


According to ACT, a majority of USHE first-year freshmen are not considered college ready in Math.
While a larger percentage of USHE students meet or exceed the ACT benchmark for college readiness in math than the national average as well as the state average for Utah, less than half of all USHE first time freshmen meet the benchmark. ACT identifies any score of 22 or higher on the math subtest as being ‘college ready.’ This is based on an ACT analysis that has identified students with such scores as having a 50% chance of getting a ‘B’ or higher or a 75% chance to get a ‘C’ or higher in a college level math course.

USHE First-time Students in Comparison to ACT reported Utah and National Benchmarks
(2010-14)


Taking math the first year of college triples chances of success.

  • Students who enroll in ANY math course their first year in college, who haven’t already met the QL requirement, are three times more likely to meet their general math requirement (QL) than those who do not take math their first year.

% of students who complete their college math requirement (QL)  within 5 years of high school graduation


Remedial math, when taken the first year, leads to success

College students who required a remedial math course AND met their math requirement have an equivalent rate of degree completion as those students who complete their math requirement without remediation or by other means (Concurrent Enrollment, AP/ACT, etc.).

% of students completing within five year of high school graduation, sorted by math completion type


As students’ course load increase, so does likelihood of passing college math in first year of college

The percentage of students who enroll in and pass Math 1030 or higher, more than doubles for students who enroll in 24-30 credits in their first year (12-15 credits/semester) compared with those enrolling in 18-23 credits per year.

Passage rate of students in earning QL during first year in college
(by hours enrolled during their first year)

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