Constrained Curriculum in High Schools: The Changing Math Standards and Student Achievement, High School Graduation and College Continuation

Nathan Daun-Barnett, Edward P. St. John


Mathematics education is a critical public policy issue in the U.S. and the pressures facing students and schools are compounded by increasing expectations for college attendance after high school.  In this study, we examine whether policy efforts to constrain the high school curriculum in terms of course requirements and mandatory exit exams affects three educational outcomes – test scores on SAT math, high school completion, and college continuation rates.  We employ two complementary analytic methods – fixed effects and difference in differences (DID) – on panel data for all 50 states from 1990 to 2008. Our findings suggest that within states both policies may prevent some students from completing high school, particularly in the near term, but both policies appear to increase the proportion of students who continue on to college if they do graduate from high school. The DID analyses provide more support for math course requirement policies than mandatory exit exams, but the effects are modest. Both the DID and fixed effects analyses confirm the importance of school funding in the improvement of high school graduation rates and test scores.


college access, education policy evaluation

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Copyright (c) 2019 Nathan Daun-Barnett, Edward P. St. John


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