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Study: Many High Achievers Do Not Attend College

According to findings released by researchers at the Strategic Data Project (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 Research 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

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


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