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Do High Flyers Maintain Their Altitude?
September 20, 2011
In partnership with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, we are releasing an interesting new report today, Do High Flyers Maintain their Altitude? Performance Trends Among High Performing Students. The report monitors the progress of a cohort of about 80,000 – 90,000 elementary students and a second cohort about 45,000 middle school students as they progress through school, with a particular focus on the high performers among the group. The study is one of the few that’s followed a relative large cohort of high performers through several years of schooling.
We encourage educators to read the report. For those of you that would like to actually interact with the data in this study and ask your own questions, we encourage you to visit the new data gallery we’ve built for this report (be patient when you get there, it takes a little time to load but it’s worth it).
So what did we find? For me, these three things stood out:
The number of high achieving students actually increased over time. That’s good news.
A substantial number of high achievers lost that status over time, roughly 30% to 40% of the original group.
Unfortunately, this was more than expected, and it is tragic, because the students we’re talking about had already demonstrated their ability to perform at a high level. These aren’t students who came to school with academic disadvantages, they emerged from their earliest years of schooling prepared and able to learn. It’s particularly sad to see the promise of this group of students diminish over time.
For many of the students who lost their high achieving status, the loss was substantive enough to impact their future prospects.
About a third of the students who fell dropped below the 75th percentile. That drop is large enough to change their future prospects. For some, it may mean losing access to gifted programming in elementary school, or competitive honors program in high school. Ultimately it means different options for college and very likely, less merit aid, which may make college less affordable for many of them.
But that’s my take on the study. Take a look for yourself and come to your own conclusions.
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