Do High Flyers Maintain Their Altitude? Thirty to 50 percent of America’s best students slide in later grades, according to a new Fordham study. “High flyers” often fail to improve their reading ability at the same rate as their classmates.
Researchers followed more than 120,000 students in 1,500 schools nationwide, looking at progress in math and reading from third to eighth grade in one cohort, and from sixth to tenth grade in another. Top students started at or above the 90th percentile.
“If America is to remain internationally competitive, secure and prosperous,” said Chester E. Finn, Jr., Fordham’s president, “we need to maximize the potential of all our children, including those at the top of the class. Today’s policy debate largely ignores this ‘talented tenth.’
The study also looked at students who ranked in the top 10 percent of their classes at high-poverty schools, even though many were not at the 90th percentile nationwide. High flyers at high-poverty schools made similar academic progress to those at low-poverty schools.
Distressing, but not surprising, responds Rick Hess.