A research study based on a 50 years of data suggests that ensuring that the children attend top schools is not uniformly beneficial to students’ achievements in the later stages of their life.
Parents often go to great lengths to ensure that their children attend top schools, surrounded by high-achieving peers who often come from advantaged backgrounds. But data collected from individuals over a span of 50 years suggests that these aspects of selective schools aren't uniformly beneficial to students' educational and professional outcomes in the following decades. The results are published in the journal Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
The researchers of the University of Tübingen were interested in understanding how the composition of a school can influence student outcomes, especially given that previous research seemed to yield mixed results.
They decided to examine the two school characteristics -- socioeconomic status and achievement -- together in one study to determine the unique contribution that each aspect makes to students' short- and long-term outcomes.
Above and beyond the influence of individual characteristics and family background, students who attended socioeconomically advantaged high schools tended to complete more years of schooling, earn higher annual incomes, and work in jobs with greater occupational prestige compared with peers who attended less advantaged schools.
"The permanent comparison with high achieving peers seemed to harm students' beliefs in their own abilities and that was associated with serious consequences for their later careers," Göllner explains.
In future research, the researchers hope to identify teacher-related factors that might buffer against the harmful effects of social comparison.
"We want to figure out what teachers can do to make sure that students' positive beliefs in their own academic capabilities are not harmed by being surrounded by high-achieving peers," says Göllner.