From: Education Week

There’s a Downside to Attending an Academically Selective School, Study Says

When sending their children to school, parents will often aim for schools with high scores and challenging programs, but according to a new analysis of data from Project TALENT, selective schools with a higher average achievement level may actually exert a negative influence on students’ long-term success.

The nationally representative, longitudinal study of over 377,000 high school students found that while students who attend socioeconomically advantaged high schools tend to complete more schooling, earn higher annual incomes, and work in more prestigious jobs 11 and 50 years later, those who attend selective, high-achieving schools tend to experience the opposite.

The report, published by the Association for Psychological Science, claims that students in high-achievement schools had relatively lower expectations due to social comparison. In other words, these students, many of whom might’ve been near the top of their class in a more academically diverse school, develop a less positive self-image when all of their classmates are high-achieving.These expectations then negatively impacted students’ attainment levels in the future.

Read the whole story (subscription may be required): Education Week


I was in the intial two rounds of Project TALENT as a high school student ,but I believe I remember not completing in during college, and was never contacted again.

If you are interested in adding me back in for the 50+ results; I am 73, PhD in Psychology, and Full Professor at Fordham University 441 E. Fordham Rd Bronx, NY

I attended both the U of WI and Iowa State for my BS; did a MA in Ed Psych at U of WI, and completed the PhD in Human Development from Penn State graduating in 1979.

I worked as a secretary during my undergrad to help defray expenses, married at 21 and divorced by age 29 after beginning the Ph D program.

My areas of research are: social cognitive aspects of autism; educational evaluation research of character and civic ed programs, and moral reasoning and moral identity development in contexts of school, work, family, Currently conducting a 30+ yr follow-up of adults who engaged in intensive civic ed program and comparison groups. SO, you see I am interested in long term outcomes just as Project Talent is.
FYI Ann Higgins-D’Alessandro

The title of this article is misleading. I see little evidence of a downside to any high school setting. I think that the basic premise of this study is on its face true. The impact of one’s high school on adult life is indeed: Not Only Who You Are but Who You Are With. That includes both classmates and teachers as well as rural/suburban/urban setting. Had I gone to my white-flight small-town suburban high school, I would have been raised in a homogenous culture steeped in exclusivity, antisemitism, and racism. The prejudices and expectations of my parents and my peers would have been echoed and reinforced by most of the adults and teachers with whom we came in contact from K through 12. The late Roger Barker’s work makes that point nicely.

Though my hometown PS was diverse with respect to SES, most teens graduated with very homogenous, and highly binary, worldviews. My highly selective urban Catholic school was homogenous with respect to SES and aptitude but we graduated with very nuanced and progressive worldviews. In contrast to my hometown peers, none of my prep school classmates lived in households that were deprived. It is reasonable to speculate that teens who were deprived growing up might be motivated to pursue careers likely to produce high status and income.

My peers did not put much emphasis on status or income; just making a difference in the world. Not surprisingly, respondents from our group tended to report expectations that aimed low on those criteria of interest. Nevertheless, our 50th reunion reflected amazing life achievements. Moreover, most of us had retired in comfort far beyond what we might have expected at age 18, 30, or even 40.

In my view, lifetime achievements are very value-laden and thus difficult to quantify. Thus, asking the question of whether better schools lead to better outcomes should always end in ambiguous results.

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