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Freshman Performance Linked to Graduation

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Students' course performance as freshmen can help predict whether they will graduate from high school four years later, providing an early warning sign to parents, teachers, and schools, a study has found.

The study, by the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago, looked at the number of credits earned by 9th graders and the number of courses they failed in order to determine whether they were "on track" to finish high school. It found that on-track freshmen in the Chicago public schools—those who earned at least five full course credits and failed no more than one semester in English, mathematics, science, or social studies—were 3 1/2 times more likely to graduate in four years than their "off track" peers. Moreover, the on-track indicator was a better predictor of graduation than students' prior test scores or background characteristics.

Authors Elaine M. Allensworth and John Q. Easton suggest the indicator could be used to identify students who need help early in high school. The researchers found that a student’s likelihood of being on track differed markedly from school to school, even when comparing students with similar backgrounds—a finding that suggests school climate and structure make a difference in helping freshmen succeed.

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