Study: Good grades are catching

If all your friends were walking off a cliff — or doing homework — would you do it too? Over the course of a school year, high school students’ grades rise when their friends have higher grades and fall when their friends have lower grades, concludes a new study, Spread of Academic Success in a High School Social Network.

Researchers theorize that academic habits are “socially contagious,”  though they concede it’s possible that students “on the way up” seek out higher-performing friends, while students beginning to slide seek out low performers. Gadfly asks: “While lower-performing students may benefit from the company of stronger performers (at least if they become friends), could such mixing wind up harming high performers?”

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  1. It’s probably a good deal of why homeschoolers tend to do better academically. They may “socialize” with all kinds of people, but you betya the parents are definitely controlling who their children’s close “friends” are to a degree not possible when the children are away for eight hours or so in public school.

    • My experience as a homeschooler has been that since my kids don’t spend school hours with their friends, they are completely unaware (until the teenage years anyway) of what kind of students their friends are. Some of my daughters’ friends have severe struggles at school, but that’s not part of the friendship and doesn’t really come up. It’s an effect I had not foreseen, but I am rather pleased about it.

  2. My experience, in an area that has had a SES-integration program for decades, is that higher-achieving kids can also “catch” lower grades, especially when there are ‘oreo’ issues involved.

  3. Michael E. Lopez says:

    I’ve been saying this for years — not that it’s anything more than common sense.

    I attribute my academic success — which by all statistical models is an extreme outlier given most of my background — to having fallen in, in 7th grade, with a group of really brilliant rich white girls. (They weren’t *really* rich, but from my side of the tracks they sure seemed that way.)

    To this day, I couldn’t tell you how it ended up happening the way it happened, but I can tell you that Rachel, Elizabeth, Erica, and Jennifer are more responsible for my going to college than almost anyone else on the planet.

    If any of them are reading this, thank you.