June 1, 2017

How much Does High School Quality Matter In College? Lots.

I've no doubt that the quality of your high school matters in preparing you for college.   But how much does it typically matter?     I went searching for studies that looked at it and I found : the report Can You Leave High School Behind?  (link to PDF)   It looked at data from University of Texas Austin students.  

In Texas they've had a program where the top 10% of all high schools are admitted to UT automatically.    This means they get a good distribution of students from high schools of varying quality.   And it gives them a lot of data about >25 thousand students who came from varying quality high schools and then went to UT.    Looking at the grades in UT for those kids they can see what the correlation is between high school quality metrics and college performance.

In short:    If you go to a good or bad high school does it reflect in your college GPA?

The answer is YES.   Definitely.

Here's a excerpt from the study that illustrates :

"As an example, we estimate a predicted GPA for a simulated student with high school characteristics from two different campuses – one of the highest-ranked and one of the lowest-ranked high schools in the Houston area. Our simulated student is female, Hispanic, age 18, and has a mother with a high school diploma, family income between $20,000-40,000, and $1,000 in unmet financial need. Graduating from the high-performing high school, this student’s estimated freshman year GPA 3.21. Graduating 23 from the low performing high school, her estimated GPA is only 2.30 – a difference of over 1.6 standard deviations."

So they modeled that an specific student would end up with a 0.9 GPA difference if they'd' gone to a good high school versus a bad high school.  

Thats a pretty big swing.    I'd consider a 3.2 GPA in college a success and a mere 2.3 GPA to be a failure or at least a pretty mediocre performance.

Of course the study is just looking at averages.    A kid from the worst high school could go on to ace college and win a Nobel prize and a kid from the very bestest high school could flunk out of college and end up a homeless drug addict.    But on average... the quality of high school is reflected in the average grades of the students who go on to college.

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2 comments:

  1. What is a simulated student? With so many data points couldn't they use real students?

    ReplyDelete
  2. SteveD, good question. I am thinking that when they say 'simulated student' they mean that they plugged all the data into a computer model and then the computer model spits out the average / expected values for students with specific traits.

    -Jim

    ReplyDelete

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