School & District Management

Leveraging Grades and Attendance to Improve High School Success

By Caralee J. Adams — January 13, 2015 2 min read
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The University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research recently reported the best predictors of academic success in high school are a combination of grades and attendance in middle school.

Now researchers have released practitioner briefs based on the report, “Looking Forward to High School and College: Middle Grade Indicators of Readiness in Chicago Public Schools,” to help schools implement strategies culled from the findings.

One targeted at middle grades and another for high school, the guides aim to give educators ideas for policies and practices to improve the transition from middle to high school.

Knowing what factors are strongest in leading to high school success, middle schools are encouraged to create a simple indicator system using GPA and attendance to reach out to students who are struggling.

“There is often a perception that students’ performance on tests is what matters for high school and college graduation,” the middle school brief says. “It is by working hard in classes that students gain the academic skills, the behavior skills, and the noncognitive skills they need to be successful in college and careers.”

Missing school 85 percent of the time in 5th through 7th grades puts students at high risk of failing in high school. The consortium recommends that a teacher, counselor, or adult mentor contact students in middle school who show a pattern of poor attendance to address the issue or it will likely worsen in high school.

Similarly, in high school when high-achieving students are identified as falling behind, researchers suggest that school staff try to dig into the underlying reasons. Perhaps students are performing poorly in a first-period class because they are arriving late or struggling in classes with a particular type of grading structure.

Reseachers urge educators to inform families about the importance of grades and attendance in middle school to help their children stay on track. Most students aspire to go to college, but don’t always realize what it takes to graduate and make it in college. Only students who graduate high school with at least a 3.0 GPA have a 50-50 chance of finishing a college degree in six years, the study revealed.

In districts where students have a choice of high schools, the Chicago researchers discovered that students fared differently depending on where they attended. High school choice was most critical in determining success for average students, researchers discovered.

To find out where students are getting the most support, the brief advises middle schools to compare graduation and 9th grade success rates, as well as college-going rates at various high schools. This information could be used to help guide students in their high school decision to find the best fit and increase their chances of being college ready.

A version of this news article first appeared in the College Bound blog.