Predicting College Acceptance, Majoring in Mathematics and Science, and the Pathway to Teaching in Texas

Principal Investigator: 
Project Overview
Background & Purpose: 

Using three waves of restricted data from the 2002-07 Texas Higher Education Opportunity Project (THEOP), the study determines the advantages that mathematics and science course sequences accrue to:

  1. acceptance and attendance at four year colleges;
  2. majoring in mathematics and science at the college level; and,
  3. entering (or leaving) the pathway to teaching mathematics and science.

Key areas of interest include the ways results vary by important high school and student demographic characteristics such as socioeconomic status, gender and race/ethnicity.

Setting: 

The THEOP data includes three waves of data from students who were high school seniors in Texas in 2002. Minority students were oversampled. Wave 1 was a stratified random sample of 13,803 public high schools and seniors in Texas during 2002. Variables included high school indicators (percent of economically disadvantaged students, percent of students in advanced placement courses, dropout rate), student indicators (gender, race/ethnicity, parents’ educational attainment, degree aspirations, course sequences), and outcomes for acceptance and attendance at college. Wave 2 followed up on 5,836 of these students in 2003, collecting data on college acceptance, attendance and majors. Wave 3 recaptured 8,345 students in 2006 and collected information on college attendance/occupational status, major, and future occupational plans.

Research Design: 

This is a longitudinal study designed to generate associative evidence. The project examined restricted Texas Higher Education Opportunity (THEOP) data - Waves 1, 2, & 3. After coding course sequence levels according to the Texas graduation requirements in 2002, the study used multilevel logistic regression to determine the probabilities for: completing four levels of mathematics and science course sequences; being accepted and attending colleges of different selectivity; majoring in mathematics/science in college; and then choosing to teach those subjects. Standard errors were adjusted for design effects and weighting reflects sampling design to correct for student and school level non-response.

Findings: 

In general, the higher the level of mathematics and science course sequences in high school, the more likely acceptance and attendance at 4 year colleges of higher selectivity. Mathematics/science course sequences and student degree aspirations (factors under the control of the student) have strong positive relationships to college acceptance and attendance when controlling for the negative effects of low parental education and high school economic disadvantage. Students are more likely to attend colleges of lower selectivity than that of the highest ranked college that selected them. There are group differences in course taking, college acceptance and attendance across selectivity levels by race/ethnicity but not by gender. Black students with similar qualifications to their White classmates are not as likely to be accepted by or attend more selective colleges while they are more likely than White classmates to attend least or less selective colleges. Hispanic students are likely to be accepted and attend colleges of similar selectivity to White students in this data; however, a large percentage of Hispanic students opt to go to two year colleges that are not counted in the US News and World Report selectivity rankings. Once attending college, high school course sequence levels across students are very similar. In the Texas data, the probability of majoring in mathematics/science and teaching those subjects is no longer stratified by race/ethnicity but by gender. Females are 1.5 times as likely to major in mathematics and 1.8 times as likely to teach mathematics and science compared to males although they have identical educational aspirations and high school course sequences.

Publications & Presentations: 

Wallace, Marjorie R., Maier, K., Lo, Y., Kim, W. (Rev. May 2009).Quality and Equality on the Pathway to Teaching in Texas. Presented at 2008 Texas Higher Education Opportunity Project (THEOP) Data Workshop, Princeton, NJ.

http://theop.princeton.edu/publications/wp.asp