Many NYC High Schools are Unable to Provide Basic Math and Science Courses Needed to Ensure College Readiness

According to the Center for New York City Affairs, many schools, especially in their science and math departments, lack the types of advanced courses that students need in order to prepare appropriately for college. Examining data for 342 high schools throughout NYC, the Center found that only 28 of those schools offered Algebra 2, chemistry, and physics. But here is the worst part: 46 schools did not offer even one of the three.

As noted in our December 2012 report, New York State currently requires only that schools offer each student three units of math at a level beyond whichever math class he or she completed in 8th grade. Technically, schools do not have to offer a fourth year of math, and many do not. As a result, there are thousands of high school students throughout NYC and NYS who are fully prepared to take calculus, for example, but will never have the opportunity because their schools are unable to provide the class.

Several schools in our study lacked adequate resources to meet the state’s minimum instructional requirements in mathematics, never mind opportunities to offer advanced or Advanced Placement courses. In the two high schools plagued by that problem, students who had completed Algebra I in 8th grade and Geometry and Algebra II in the 9th and 10th grades, respectively, did not have full access to precalculus, the third unit of mathematics required for high school graduation, much less the opportunity to take math all four years of high school. One school lacked a sufficient number of teachers in its math department even to offer precalculus, and the other school could provide precalculus only to a small handful of students who could be accommodated at an adjacent school.

Another eight schools out of the 33 in our study said that, while they were meeting minimum state requirements for curricular offerings and instructional time in math, they lacked resources to provide a fourth year of math for interested, qualified students, and they were unable to provide extra math help for struggling students.

Furthermore, in science, 13 of the 33 schools in our study were unable to offer students even the minimum amount of science instructional time required by New York State.

While you do need excellent learning opportunities in math and science to become a rocket scientist, it doesn’t take rocket science to figure this out: if New York schools are unable to offer a full college preparatory curriculum, students will continue to enter college unprepared.


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