Schools That Produce Math Stars At A Rate Ten Times The Average
Erik Robelen with another great article in Education Week:
“Looking at more than 2,000 U.S. high schools that one might imagine are most likely to succeed based on their student demographics, a new study finds strikingly wide variations in the share of top-achieving students in mathematics. A small subset of those public schools, for example, about 4 percent, have rates of high-flyers at least three times the average for all the schools examined—with a handful as high as ten times the average.
The variation is even more pronounced for girls, with many of the advantaged schools deemed to be ‘extremely unlikely’ to produce top-achieving females in math, even though a small group are virtually off the charts with their high success rates (compared with the average for girls across schools), the study finds.
‘Our biggest finding is that schools do seem to matter a lot for high-achieving students,’ said Glenn Ellison, an economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who co-authored the study, which was published as a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research, based in Cambridge, Mass. ‘Even among schools with fairly similar demographics, we see a lot of difference in the [rates] of high-achieving students.’
. . . The researchers offer some speculation about what may be happening. They suggest that while almost all the schools in the sample likely see it as their responsibility to provide English and math courses that help students excel on the SAT, there is ‘much less uniformity in whether schools encourage gifted students to develop more-advanced problem-solving skills and reach the higher level of mastery of high school mathematics needed to do well on [a standardized math test].’
Echoing a point made by some other researchers and STEM advocates, Mr. Ellison observes that nurturing high achievers, and those with the potential to become high achievers, is vital to the nation’s economic well-being.
‘So much of the education debate is about bringing up the struggling students, which I’m all in favor of, but high-achieving students are important when we talk about success in scientific and technical fields,’ he said. ‘These are future medical researchers or leading business people or leaders in various fields . . . Those students matter a lot to the economy.’
. . . In their conclusion, the authors offer up a hopeful note about the ability of this nation to catch up with other countries if more schools do a better job of nurturing their top math talent.
‘Our results suggest that the high-achieving math students we see today in U.S. high schools may be just a small fraction of the number of students who have the potential to reach such levels,’ it says.” Read more here.
We need to find out what these schools are doing right, so other schools can replicate it.