Freshman year… Yes, it is most definitely important!
From 2006 - 2013, researchers at the University of Chicago studied eight data cohorts of Chicago high school freshmen. They discovered Grades and Attendance really matter during one’s freshmen year. The study revealed that more than 95% of the students who earned a “B” average or better in their freshman year graduate and have an 80% chance of finishing high school with at least a 3.0 GPA. Furthermore, according to the study of Chicago freshmen, those who have less than a “C” average are more likely to drop out than graduate.
Additionally, freshmen who miss more than two weeks of school fail an average of two classes regardless of their prior performance in the classroom. In fact, freshmen who arrive with high test scores but miss two weeks of school per semester are more likely to fail a course than freshmen with low test scores who miss less than one week.
The “why” is something researchers are reviewing, but the reports do suggest a couple of “likely” explanations... a) doing well as freshmen gives kids entry to more advanced courses later on in high school and college, b) teachers have higher expectations of these students because of their earlier performance, and/or c) students develop greater confidence after experiencing initial success. Researchers indicated “We don’t know which of these are true, but it seems likely that there are elements of ‘success breeding success’ at play.”
Often, educators analyze and discuss the “achievement gap”... the differences on test scores between subgroups, but a strong argument can be made for an increased focus on reducing the “GPA gap” during the Freshman year as well.
In Belton, efforts to address this “GPA gap” are well underway. During recent presentations involving students and parents, considerable attention was given to the importance of the Freshman year, the challenge of having Freshmen “housed” apart from the high school, some cohort data from those currently in high school and the ongoing efforts to alert our community to the significance of this important year of school. With an average of 36.7 % of our current 10th - 12th graders who have earned one or more “F’s” during their freshman year, we celebrate the 81% of the current Freshmen for their efforts to earn passing grades at the mid-way point of their Freshman year.
As we embrace the future in Belton, we continue to be intentional about placing emphasis on the success/performance of our Freshmen. Transition activities are being developed to enhance the experience for our current and next year’s Freshmen. Among the attention provided the significance of earning solid grades, regular and timely attendance is the value of “connection.” As has been provided in an earlier issue of the “BHS White papers,” students who are involved in various activities do earn greater grades and have higher attendance rates. We want and strongly encourage student participation in a school-related activity.
The full implementation of our Academy model for our freshmen begins with the 2019-20 school year. The design calls for students to be assigned to a specific “team” within the Freshman Academy. The identification of team membership provides an additional layer of connection and the model provides strategic and intentional steps throughout the year to connect students to one another, their staff and their respective interests.