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?”

Success in numbers

It takes a “posse” to create a college graduate: By sending disadvantaged students to college ing groups of 10, the Posse Foundation has boosted success rates, reports the New York Times.

Posse chooses students with leadership, problem-solving and teamwork skills through a very competitive process.  A group of 10 meets during their senior and through the summer, then goes to the same elite college.

Posse Scholars’ combined median reading and math SAT score is only 1050, while the median combined score at the colleges Posse students attend varies from 1210 to 1475. Nevertheless, they succeed. Ninety percent of Posse Scholars graduate — half of them on the dean’s list and a quarter with academic honors. A survey of 20 years of alumni found that nearly 80 percent of the respondents said they had founded or led groups or clubs. There are only 40 Posse Scholars among Bryn Mawr’s 1,300 students, but a Posse student has won the school’s best all-around student award three times in the past seven years.

This is not about the SATs’ predictive power, as the Times seems to think. It shows that college students do a lot better if they have friends who support their academic goals and no financial worries.

DePauw was so impressed by the Posse Scholars’ success that the college now assigns all first-year students to small groups.  They meet regularly with an upper-class student as mentor “to talk about topics like time management, high-risk drinking and preparing for midterms.”