How to get “High Flyers” Back on Top

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute grabbed headlines a few weeks back when the organization released a new study that showed that the highest-achieving  or “high flyer” middle school students lose ground in high school.

About 30 percent of students who scored in the 90th percentile or higher on a math exam in sixth grade fell below that threshold by 10th grade.   Almost half of the high flyers in middle school reading fell below the 90th percentile by 10th grade.

While many factors may contribute to the descent of high flyers, the study’s authors cite NCLB and its focus on the poorest performing students as one potential problem.   Yet, there was also some good news. There were 4.3 percent more students who were high-achievers in high school math compared to the number who reached that mark in middle school.

The question for school administrators and teachers is how to bring up the poorest performing students while nurturing and challenging the high flyers.  To date, the answer has been to spend a majority of time and resources focused on the low achievers and hope the high flyers maintain their altitude.   Teachers may find themselves spending proportionately more time working with the struggling students, leaving little time to challenge the best students.

But, what if teachers could add one-to-one teaching and learning opportunities for every student, every day?

This is one of the services offers teachers and students to make classrooms better.  Adding a network of 2,500 professional online tutors into the school day allows teachers to create flexible, dynamic classrooms that serve all students’ needs.  Low performers may work one-to-one with a tutor until they master basic skills.  High achievers can work on more challenging concepts that push them to deeper subject mastery.  Every student gets individualized attention and there is a record of their questions and progress because each session is saved.

Even more telling is that the introduction of ongoing support from an expert tutor online in middle school may help create additional high flyers by high school.

Take a look at Melissa S.  who failed a math class only to re-take it with help from and receive the highest grade in the class.  Melissa is now in college and has completed college-level calculus, thanks to having ongoing support from professional tutors, ready to help with any challenge.  And Melissa’s grade in that college level calculus class?  A solid B-.   We’d put her in the high flyer category.


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