Adding more math and science courses to high school graduation requirements made students more likely to drop out, according to a recently published study by Washington University researchers.
The study compared course requirement changes between 1980 and 1999. Florida was among a group of states with the most required math and science courses — six. Proponents argue that requiring tougher courses — rigor, in edubuzzspeak — better prepares all students for college or a post high school career.
But the Washington University researchers found no rising tide.
“We observed no evidence of broad benefit related to increases in mathematics and science [high school course graduation requirements],” the researchers wrote.
Some demographic groups showed some benefits. Black women and Hispanic men were less likely to start college in states which increased the number of required courses, researchers found. But, black women and Hispanic men who did enroll in college were more likely to earn a degree.
Florida is among the states which has added math and science courses to high school graduation requirements over the past decade. Those included Algebra 1, Algebra 2, biology and other advanced math and science classes.
Students must complete four math and three science courses to earn a high school diploma
But state lawmakers have backed off some of those requirements recently. Algebra 2 is no longer required. And students no longer have to pass final exams for some classes. Instead, the final exam counts as 30 percent of their grade.
State law now allow students to swap career training courses for some of the required math and science courses.
Florida’s graduation rate has improved consistently over the past decade, but the state still has the sixth-lowest rate in the country. Supporters of Florida’s education policies say the graduation rate would improve if Florida got rid of exit exams, but that students wouldn’t be ready for life after high school.