Describing Secondary Curriculum in Mathematics and Science

Current Status and Future Indicators

by Brian M. Stecher

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To translate the growing concern about the quality of mathematics and science education into educational improvement, information about curriculum is essential. This Note describes the condition of mathematics and science curricula at the secondary level, evaluates the quality of the description, and evaluates the quality of secondary-level curriculum indicators that could be produced from existing data sources. The author concludes that it is not possible to construct an adequate system of curriculum indicators based on existing data sources. Consequently, our knowledge of the status of mathematics and science curricula in U.S. secondary schools is inadequate for effective policymaking. In particular, little is known about the actual content of courses or the way in which it is presented. The partial picture that can be developed from existing data reveals that some students have access to broader curriculum opportunities than others, and these differences are systematic ones associated with identifiable conditions. It is critical that such differences be monitored more closely through a mechanism such as an indicator system so that problems can be identified, addressed, and corrected.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation note series. The note was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1979 to 1993 that reported other outputs of sponsored research for general distribution.

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