American Sociological Association

ASA Footnotes

A publication of the American Sociological AssociationASA News & Events
January-March 2018

Almost Half a Million High School Students Enroll in Sociology Courses Each Year

High School Students
Nearly 470,000 high school students enroll in sociology courses each year according to an analysis of recently released High School Longitudinal Study (HSLS) transcript data. ASA believes that sociology is an important element in a strong secondary school curriculum, and that It is crucial for ASA to support high quality instruction for these students. Our newly approved membership category for high school teachers of sociology is an important step toward supporting high school teachers.


As ASA members, high school teachers of sociology receive resources to engage and excite students and help launch the next generation of sociologists. High school teachers receive benefits of ASA membership at a discounted rate, including full access to TRAILS, the Teaching Resources and Innovations Library for Sociology. In order to better serve these new members, a high school editorial board has been established for TRAILS, charged with expanding the number and range of high school-specific teaching and learning resources available. The TRAILS high school editorial board will be actively working to solicit resources that support learning of the essential concepts and competencies in the National Standards for High School Sociology which were approved by ASA Council in 2015.

The Social Implications

The large number of students taking sociology in high schools on an annual basis not only has implications for ASA’s work but, more importantly, has broad social implications.

“It is highly encouraging that so many high school students nationwide enroll in sociology courses,” National Council for the Social Studies Executive Director Lawrence Paska said. Paska believes that such courses “help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.”

The HSLS data reveal that, compared to students in many other elective courses, the typical student taking sociology in high school is more likely to be from a racial and ethnic minority group, come from a lower-income class, and have at least one parent who did not go to college.

Paska said that the results show sociology “courses provide critical equity of access for all students to the wider fields of study that are vital to a well-rounded education.”

The HSLS data reveal the popularity of sociology courses, especially among low-income and minority groups. The potential for sociology courses to positively impact students’ lives should not be ignored.

Mark Lockefeer understands that well. Now a law student, he says that insights from the sociology class he took his senior year of high school helped him find his way toward a successful career. Lockefeer used what he learned in his high school sociology class to find success in the Marines, then at DePaul University, and now at Michigan State University College of Law where he’s “hoping to become a constitutional litigator one day to make sure the people in our country don’t have their civil liberties trampled.”

Lockefeer recently contacted his former high school sociology teacher, ASA High School Program Director Chris Salituro, saying: “I wanted to let you know that your classes …were a big part of what led me to this path.”

For more information on ASA’s collaboration with high school teachers, see