+ Study: 6th Grade Weaknesses Can’t Be Fixed in High School

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According to Tara Malone’s article in the Chicago Tribune, a new study shows that fewer than 2 in 10 6th graders are on track to be prepared for college — and high school may be too late to bring them up to speed.

In the report, researchers find that how students fare in middle school is a leading predictor of their ability to succeed in college or the workplace.

The research, by Iowa City-based ACT suggests that students who are not academically prepared going into high school are unlikely to make up ground, even with rigorous schooling and academic help.

The trend cut across demographic as well as economic lines.

Says Cyndie Schmeiser, president of ACT’s eduction division, “What we’re saying is college and career readiness is a process that includes high school but is not exclusively a high school issue.  It’s a K-12 issue.”

Such results reinforce a recent study of Chicago Public Schools students, which looked at the correlation between how 8th graders fared on the state’s exams and how they performed three years later on the ACT.  That report, from the University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Research, found that students who earned average scores in the 8th grade had only a one-in-four chance of scoring high enough on the ACT to go to college — a score typically considered to be at least a 20 out of 36 points.

“We should be looking all the way back,” says John Easton, executive director of the Consortium.  “If we want kids to be at a certain level in Grade 12 or 11, where do we need them to be in middle school or elementary school?”

(Regardless of their achievement level in middle school, his research found, students did benefit from attending high schools with strong academics and challenging course work.)

“I don’t want to take high schools off the hook entirely, but on the other hand, it’s hard for high schools to deal with severely underprepared kids,” Easton says.

source: Chicag Tribune article by Tara Malone on 12/11/08.  www.chicagtribune.com

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