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Communicating the Benefits of a Full Sequence of High School Science Courses


High school students are generally uninformed about the benefits of enrolling in a full sequence of science courses, therefore only about a third of our nation's high school graduates have completed the science sequence of Biology, Chemistry and Physics. The lack of students completing a full sequence of science courses contributes to the deficit in the STEM degree production rate needed to fill the demand of the current job market and remain competitive as a nation. The purpose of the study was to make a difference in the number of students who have access to information about the benefits of completing a full sequence of science courses.

This dissertation study employed qualitative research methodology to gain a broad perspective of staff through a questionnaire and document review and then a deeper understanding through semi-structured interview protocol. The data revealed that a universal sequence of science courses in the high school district did not exist. It also showed that not all students had access to all science courses; students were sorted and tracked according to prerequisites that did not necessarily match the skill set needed for the courses. In addition, the study showed a desire for more support and direction from the district office. It was also apparent that there was a disconnect that existed between who staff members believed should enroll in a full sequence of science courses and who actually enrolled. Finally, communication about science was shown to occur mainly through counseling and peers.

A common science sequence, detracking of science courses, increased communication about the postsecondary and academic benefits of a science education, increased district direction and realistic mathematics alignment were all discussed as solutions to the problem.

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