By Vandeen A. Campbell, Ph.D.

Work thus far on the NJ Science Course Pathways Study has focused on coding and classifying science course pathways and preliminary descriptive and advanced analyses. So far, findings confirm that there is great variability in the science courses students are taking in NJ. The top ten science course pathways across the state include combinations of Biology, Chemistry, and Physics (28%) and combinations of Biology, Chemistry, and another science (24%) (e.g., Environmental Science, Earth and Space Science, or an applied science).

Following Burkham and Lee’s 2003 science course pipelines, we coded Biology, Chemistry, and Physics as standard to advanced science courses. These are regular secondary courses, combinations of which are typically required for graduation, and exclude Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), and dual enrollment (DE) courses. As of the 2018-2019 grade 9 cohort, about 43% of students took three standard to advanced science courses and 42% took two such courses. This varies by race and socioeconomic status. About 34% of Black and Latinx students and 45% of White students took three standard to advanced science courses compared to 61% of Asian students. Thirty-three percent (33%) of free and reduced-price lunch students did so.

From preliminary advanced analyses (cross-classified hierarchical linear models), we are seeing that taking a full standard to advanced science course pathway is a strong predictor of college enrollment regardless of the sequence. Our next step is to run disparity analyses. If we found that taking some science course pathways can reduce the disparities in college outcomes, the research would provide robust evidence base for high-leverage changes in science course enrollment policies and related issues such as staffing and student support.


Number of Students Taking Standard to Advanced Science Courses in Grades 9-11 by 9th Grade Cohort in NJ

Number of Students Taking 0-3 Standard to Advanced Science Courses in Grades 9-11

0 1 2 3 Total
2016-2017 n 2,581 14,094 42,667 39,040 98,382
% 2.6% 14.3% 43.4% 39.7% 100.0%
2017-2018 n 2,405 13,152 42,978 40,061 98,596
% 2.4% 13.3% 43.6% 40.6% 100.0%
2018-2019 n 2,236 12,764 42,438 42,785 100,223
% 2.2% 12.7% 42.3% 42.7% 100.0%