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Grades and Attendance in Middle School Are Key Indicators for Later Success

New research released today finds that grades and attendance trump test scores, race, and poverty when it comes to predicting middle school students' likelihood of high school and college success.

The report by a team from the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research led by Elaine Allensworth examined the transition of 20,000 public school students in Chicago from elementary to high school. The findings underscore the need to closely track and intervene, as necessary, with students between 5th and 8th grades, a time period when considerable change can occur.

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Unless students establish good grades in middle school, it can be difficult to change the trajectory in high school. The report notes that a 3.5 middle school grade point average gave students a 50 percent chance of college success.  A 1-point difference in GPAs in 8th grade is linked to a 20 percentage-point difference in the likelihood of passing 9th grade math.

While test scores are more difficult to move, attendance can be an area where schools focus and improvements can help a students' likelihood of success in high school and college, the researchers find.  The report discovered that high school outcomes are better for students who started at the same levels of achievement, but who worked toward more consistent attendance in middle school than those who focused on improving test scores. Many of the students who are at risk of 9th grade failure can be identified as early at 6th grade, although some fall into this group as their attendance declines though the middle grade years.

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