High School Course Patterns as related to University Academic Achievement and Persistence



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Texas is committed to better prepared students for educational endeavors after high school. Specifically, Texas seeks to increase participation in higher education by 630,000 students as well as to increase certificate and graduation rates. The Texas legislature mandated a new high school core curriculum and Universal Admissions policy that becomes effective in May 2011. With this change, it is important to understand the effects of course taking and course achievement on college success and persistence. The purpose of this study was to identify the extent to which various high school course patterns, individually and as a block, predicted student academic success and persistence. The sample included student-level postsecondary data for 1,707 first-time, full-time college freshmen entering a small, special purpose four-year institution in the summer and fall of 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. Two regression analyses were applied to the data in order to identify the relative contributions of predictor variables (rank in high school class; scholastic aptitude test scores; various blocks of high school courses in mathematics, science, foreign language, and English; and college level courses, including advanced placement and/or dual credit successfully completed during high school) that were relevant to one or both of the outcome measures of the study (academic achievement measured by the end of the first year grade point average and persistence measured by enrollment in the fall term of the sophomore year).

The findings confirmed that high school rank and standardized tests have moderate predictive value (15.4%) for measuring academic success during the first year of enrollment. The high school course patterns, however, added very little additional predictive value to academic achievement (3.8%). Furthermore, this study showed very little predictive validity of either the traditional criteria or the high school course patterns for persistence to the second year of college. While the findings are limited, they suggest further study is needed to explore if individual grades in high school courses or other critical high school contributions might yield more significant results.



High school courses, Course patterns, Education, Persistence, Academic achievement, Test Scores, Rank