Washington State Board of Education
2008 Graduate Follow-up Study
Students who are ready for college level work are more successful in college than those who are not. However, many students enrolling in college nationally and in Washington State are not ready to take college level course work. The Washington State Board of Education commissioned this research to examine the relationship between high school and college course-taking patterns.
This study examined the course-taking patterns for students of the graduating class of 2008 across Washington State. The sample was drawn from a previous transcript study. Of the original participants (n = 14,875), we were able to match 89% of the records (n = 13,247). Overall, 6,377 students attended a two-year college in Washington State or one of six four-year colleges and universities identified for this study.
Overall results demonstrate large differences in course-taking patterns depending on the type of college students attend. Students who attended four-year colleges or who were dual enrolled took more rigorous courses than students who attended a two-year college. Of the 2008 high school graduateswho attended college the year after graduating high school, 45% of students attending a two-year college, 85% of students attending a four-year college, and 82% of students who were dual enrolled met minimum, public four-year Washington college admissions standards set by the HEC Board. There are significant differences between the two-year and the four-year group and the two-year and dual enrollment group across each subject area, with the four-year and dual enrollment groups meeting eligibility requirements in each subject area at higher rates than the two-year group.
A logistic regression analysis was conducted to predict enrollment into a two-year or four-year college. GPA had the highest predictive ability, followed by level of last math class, foreign language requirement met, and the level of the last English class. This indicates that both courses and grades are important in predicting the type of college enrollment.
An analysis of the percent of students taking remedial math and English courses shows that 56.9% of students took a college remedial math or English course in the CTC system. By subject area, 49.7% of students took a remedial math course, 25.6% took a remedial English course, and 18.5% took both a remedial math and a remedial English course. A logistic regression analysis was conducted to better understand the relationship between students enrolling in remedial courses and when they last took English and math, and at what level. For math, the last level that students completed was the strongest predictor of whether a student enrolls in a remedial math course followed by GPA. Findings show that students are less likely to enroll in a remedial math course in college if they have taken Calculus or beyond in high school. For English, GPA was the strongest predictor, followed by the level of English course students attained in high school. In both cases, the last year students took the course was not a statistically significant predictor. This indicates that the level students attain in math and English is more important than when they last take math or English.
Approximately 34% of students who participate in Running Start or College in High School take math during that dual enrollment program; 38% do not take math while in the dual enrollment program; and 27% take math through their high school. Analyzing the type of math students take is difficult because many schools do not specifically code the Running Start course on the transcripts.
There are differences in course-taking patterns based on students declared purpose for enrolling in a community and technical college. Students who plan to transfer to a four-year college after completing their work at a two-year college typically have attained higher levels of math than students who have a workforce goal. Students with a transfer goalare also enrolled in remedial math courses at higher rates. This is expected because transfer students generally have to take more math. Interestingly, there is a trend that as students take more career and technical credits in high school, there is an increasing percentage of students entering the CTC system with a workforce goal. This may mean that students are choosing certain course-taking patterns in high school based on their expectations at the CTC.
The results of this study suggest that there are some important relationships between high school and college course-taking patterns. The current study and existing research provide critical guideposts for improving college and career preparation for Washington students.
The BERC Group, Inc.
Duane B. Baker, Ed.D.
Candace A. Gratama, Ed.D.
Kari M. Peterson, Ph.D.
Elizabeth Boatright, Ph.D.
The BERC Group brings experience and an extensive knowledge base to any evaluation project.