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College or Employment and the High School Curriculum

Warren, Jonathan R.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Academic Aptitude, College Attendance, Employment Experience, High School Graduates, High Schools, Questionnaires, Secondary School Curriculum, Socioeconomic Background, Surveys


A questionnaire survey of the college and employment activities of about 5,500 high school graduates one year out of high school and of about 3,000 graduates three years out of high school showed the high school curriculum the students followed to be only moderately related to what they did after high school. Academic aptitude and the parents' socioeconomic status were associated with the high school curriculum followed and with amount of post-high-school education independently of curriculum. Aptitude, socioeconomic status, and curriculum combined, however, still left a high degree of uncertainty in the educational level that would be reached. Particularly among the men, large proportions of graduates of nonacademic high school curricula entered college, and smaller but still sizeable proportions of college preparatory graduates entered employment. The three-year pattern of post-high-school activities showed that as many graduates had completed three years of college as had had no college at all. But almost as many had been in and out of college, starting late or dropping out, and working in the periods between enrollments. The uncertainty in predicting entry into college and the variety of educational experiences that follow college entry, including wide variation in the amount of college completed, raise questions about the usefulness of differentiating high school curricula on the basis of expectations about college attendance or employment after high school. Alternative ways of differentiating high school curricula, based on current student characteristics rather than plans or expectations, are suggested. (28pp.)

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