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What Matters for Staying On-Track and Graduating in Chicago Public High Schools: A Close Look at Course Grades, Failures, and Attendance in the Freshman Year

In this report, we look closely at students’ performance in their coursework during their freshman year, how it is related to eventual graduation, and how personal and school factors contribute to success or failure in freshman-year courses in Chicago public high schools. We show that data on course performance can be used to identify future dropouts and graduates with precision, and we compare performance indicators to discern how they might be used for nuanced targeting of students at-risk of dropping out. We examine the factors that contribute to course performance in the freshman year, showing that success in coursework is affected more by what students do while they are in high school than by their preparation for high school and backgrounds. Finally, we provide evidence that teachers and schools matter for how students perform in their courses, and that efforts to reduce dropout rates are consistent with initiatives to address low achievement. In this report, we pull apart a variety of indicators of freshman course performance—including students’ failures, absences, and overall grades—to learn what matters for a successful freshman year.

Publication Date: July 2007
Grade Level: Middle grades, High school
Classification: Research, Report
Indicator area: ELA, Math, Attendance
Root Cause: Academic Reasons
Source: The University of Chicago
Authors: Elaine M. Allensworth, John Q. Easton