Study: Many High Achievers Do Not Attend College

01/25/2013 2:42 PM

According to findings released by researchers at the (SDP), as many as 16 percent of the students in SDP partner districts who are high achieving, as indicated by superior grades and SAT scores, do not attend college once they complete high school. In addition, some high-achieving students who do attend college but opt to enroll in less selective postsecondary schools meet with less success than those who choose more selective colleges and universities.

Based at the Center for Education Policy at Harvard University, SDP is releasing a set of three Strategic Performance Indicators (SPIs) today that challenge common assumptions about college-going patterns in U.S. school districts and provide deeper insight into the health and performance of school districts. SDP developed these indicators through a series of studies conducted in partnership with eight large urban school systems across the United States.

“Whether it is by looking closely at ninth graders who are struggling academically, tracking where and what happens when students attend college, or by isolating the impact of individual schools on similar students, SDP’s analysis continues to show that there is much to be gained by looking more deeply at the data,” said SDP Executive Director Sarah Glover. “We hope this information—in the hands of superintendents, principals, guidance counselors, parents, and students in our partner districts—will allow all of those people to make decisions that can significantly improve student outcomes.”

SDP’s analyses link student records from K–12 districts to college enrollment records maintained by the National Student Clearinghouse, enabling student trajectories to be examined from grade school and high school all the way into college. These indicators allow K–12 leaders to have a finer-grained understanding regarding patterns of college readiness, college enrollment, and college persistence among their high school students, and to uncover variability that may have never been detected using usual methods of data reporting. …

To read the complete press release, visit www.gse.harvard.edu/~pfpie/pdf/sdp-spi-v2-press-release.pdf.

To learn more about the Strategic Data Project and its Strategic Performance Indicators, visit its website.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/CharlesRichardWilson Charles Richard Wilson

    Potential is useless without direction, and direction toward higher education comes from having a reason to go to college not for the sake of going, but because the student can associate and align the long-term benefit with their own naive intrapersonal value system. If the perceived long-term value is less than a smaller sooner short-term alternative that is seemingly easier, then the student will choose the immediate simpler alternative, regardless of intelligence level because young people are malleable and by nature attracted to the novelty of immediate gratification. There is value to not attending college when you are young when you can get a $10/hr job at Starbucks and buy fun. The longer that young person is out of school, the greater the value decays for the already low-valued long-term option of a degree. The value of a degree only exists if it’s established early, nurtured, and the child engages the choice through self-efficacy precipitated by structured, careful consideration. How does that happen? Value comes from knowledge, informational power, guidance through social and emotional comparison, and by motivation.
    Kids find these forms of influence on their developing value systems through only a few ways: parents, role models, and influential educators and school staff. The more positive influences the better, but realistically more kids have single parents than ever before who work, fewer role models, a greater amount of negative influences, and the last bastion of hope, the educators and school administration support staff, they’re failing as well. This is even more apparent in lower-income neighborhoods with little education funding. A student without an adequate amount of useful, practical college information which could be provided and guided by schools is a student who cannot by themselves see the true value in a college degree. No perceived value=no direction=lost potential favoring a shorter, easier, less rewarding fun option, or often times something worse.
    A solution? A deficiency exists in testing, informing, and preparing high school children early in their educational experience. Kids are not given valid personality profile assessments and guided into their areas of interest and natural potential by qualified people during those critical ages before 18. A comprehensive, behavioral science-based, personality profile assessment inventory should be given to grades 9-12, each year, but combined throughout high school with trained, qualified guidance resources to help them identify and explore their potential early. The assessments should be idiographic and nomothetic, as well as correlated with occupational databases on O*Net & The Occupational Outlook Handbook so, of the 40,000 jobs out there, kids can set goals and value the right career/education options early through an individuated, applicable waste-free education.
    This solution doesn’t even exist at most universities, but it is the solution for the students with or without college potential, primarily the at-risk students with little or no positive influence on their value systems. Our economy, poverty rate, crime rates, graduation rates, healthcare systems, and quality of life, everything, would be improved through an advanced empirical approach to preparing our incoming generations adequately, regardless of their circumstances. This solution not only addresses high achievers, but is a necessity for all potentially productive children.
    The cost to implement this program nationwide within a couple years? It would be a relatively nominal cost and a drop in the bucket compared to the billions we spend on our military budget killing people through unnecessary wars, or the trillions we accumulate as masters of finance and capitalism, which is an unfortunate reality when even a small percent of those billions could instead equate to saving millions of our children. They’re your children too so long as you qualify yourself as being human.
    Being the most advanced, proud, influential, innovative, developed nation in the world with the largest abundance of top universities in one country, how can we accept such a contradiction with so many children essentially disregarded from what constitutes our proud identity as Americans? It is because every one of you who can make a difference who reads this will do nothing.

    This message is being publicly posted to a widely-viewed education site, belonging to Harvard University, the most prestigious and recognizable higher education institution in the known universe. Harvard, a school with the most successful alumni network in history composed of the most powerful people in all industries of the world…Harvard, a university employing many of the top thinkers, innovators, and educators alive today…Harvard; the Ivy League standard of knowledge, prestige, and distinction above all other campuses known the world over. But even you reading this sitting there, surrounded by your infinite power and historically demonstrated ability to influence and change the world; you Harvard, with your largest annual endowment, the reputation of your name charging the air with electricity every time you are uttered in a conversation about education…folded within the pages of your fairytale, you will read this and you will do nothing.
    You can be the very solution, the catalyst that takes this empirically-based, demonstrated concept and the knowledge of it now that you’ve read it and understand how simple it is; you can be the impetus that drives the change needed to save millions of children, and yet despite every reason there is to quite simply do it, you will do nothing.
    The nature of the original article I am commenting on is essentially that it aims to report that Harvard researchers have statistically begun to identify systematic failures that surprisingly result in identifiable high achiever groups who are ineffectually never reaching their potential through further education. It is assumed to be an intelligent strategy to resolve this with some suggested solutions and interventions to aid this group, but I would argue that an intelligent, equitable strategy would reasonably and ethically ensure the highest rate of achievement, relative to potential, through employing a solution that applies favorably and fairly to all children, regardless of classification.
    If you knew there was a way to accomplish this, and it is the right thing to do because they are your children, and you’re capable of doing it with your resources and capability, why is it that after you read this you will do nothing? If all you’re going to do Harvard is justify your inaction with words and excuses to alleviate your cognitive dissonance so that your eminence is protected while you are too inhumane to act, I ask you this: “is that what you’ve learned to do at Harvard instead of change the world?” Excuses, words, reputation, history, money, your name, they are nothing when you can change everything and you choose to do nothing, Harvard. You cannot escape the fact that you have the power, at this moment, to change everything, yet you will choose to do nothing after reading this. If you are the best educational institution in the known world, and education and knowledge will save that world, including you, prove it is all worth it…prove it means something, that you can do better than nothing. There are millions of reasons to help all children with the most critical choices they need to make to save themselves and society, and to realize their potential. You’ve read this, what will you do? Nothing?

  • Anonymous

    Mr. Wilson, thank you for a thought-provoking comment. There is a lot of truth in here.

    Indeed, I followed through this entire process and am now a poster guy for higher education. I was discouraged, undermotivated and alienated back in 1970 and became one of the apparently rare birds, a Harvard dropout. No one ever told me that a C+/B- average was not necessarily a terrible thing for a school as competitive as Harvard. I never got that focused guidance that could have put me on a track for success, but bumbled my way through the precess over a 20 year period. I eventually became a college graduate at 44 and a licensed PE at 47, a late achiever, I reckon.

    Self-guided, I followed my inclinations, a gearhead, science wonk and believer in the environment, and upbringing (Mom was trained as a geologist back in the 30′s). Working as a mechanic, then oilwell driller for ten years, finally the handwriting on the wall had gotten VERY tall, and I returned to school. taking a few classes, then enrolling full time at CSULB in their Civil Engineering program. As, they say, 30 years ago I could not spell engineer, and now I are one…

    I agree with your challenge, but take it for a challenge, not a condemnation to a sad fate. With two little daughters, we must begin to plan. You know, failing to plan is planning to fail.

    And higher education is no longer as affordable as it was in the late 80′s and early 90′s, when I worked my way through eight years of night school.

    So take Mr. Wilson’s comment for a challenge, everyone, and improve the system. Plan, act, study, yes?

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