| The Five Greatest Predictors of Student Success Educators have focused on helping students through transitions for years now. You know what I mean, don’t you? Transitions like… From elementary school to middle school… From middle school to high school… From high school to college… From college to career (or in some cases, back to their parent’s basement). Far too often, we’ve focused on predictors such as GPA or SAT scores. We figure if a kid is smart-they’ll stay in school and continue to be engaged in class. It made sense to us. Today we’re realizing those are not the most significant categories to measure. Here are the ‘Big Five”… When a student experiences these five realities they are most likely to graduate and excel in life:|
1. Close, accountable relationships are important to student success. We continue to find that students who fail to graduate or succeed in school are ones who fail to engage with others outside of class or don’t get involved with activities involving new people. They get stuck and then don’t have a support system to make them want to continue. They also have no accountability strong enough to prevent them from quitting. Research shows that when students get connected to solid people (peers or mentors) they tend to stick with commitments and follow through. 2. Possessing adaptability and resilience. There is a growing body of research in the last decade suggesting that adults have created a fragile population of children. Because parents or teachers have not demanded they overcome adversity or we’ve not leveled consequences to their behavior, kids often become brittle young adults, unable to cope with the demands of life. You can imagine a student like this has trouble with transitions and the hardship of adapting to new situations. Let me illustrate this drift: — In 2006, 60% of students moved back home after finishing college. In 2010, that number had risen to 80%. It’s more than a bad economy. They’re not career-ready. – Condoleezza Rice and Joel Klein report three out of four teens aren’t even fit to serve in the military due to obesity, failure to graduate high school or their criminal records. – The MacArthur Foundation funded a research project that said for many kids, the transition into adulthood doesn’t occur until 34 years of age. I don’t believe this stall in students is because they’re unintelligent or bad kids. I believe we’ve failed to prepare them to cope with demands. We somehow felt that self-esteem meant we should affirm them consistently and prevent them from falling or failing. Sadly, this has had the opposite effect. We have risked too little, we have rescued too quickly and we have raved to easily about our kids-and now they find it hard to navigate transitions. Adaptability and resilience are priceless possessions that predict success far more than good grades and high SAT scores.
3. Developing high emotional intelligence. You know this already. Forty years ago, educators frequently believed that the kid with the highest IQ would do the best, and later become the most successful. Now, it appears it’s more about EQ than IQ. If a student has high self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management, they’re more likely to graduate, excel and become a leader. It’s more about life skills and soft skills than memorizing lectures and taking exams. Quite frankly, the reason emotional intelligence has become such a large factor in student success is that kids today struggle more with mental health issues than they did forty years ago. This, in turn, leads to poor performance and high dropout rates. Additional studies also show emotional intelligence is strongly linked to staying in school, avoiding risk behaviors, and improving health, happiness, and life success.
4. Targeting a clear outcome. This one should be obvious. Whenever a student enters school (high school or college) with a clear goal, they are more likely to stay engaged and finish well. I believe it’s the primary difference between school and sports…or for that matter: work and sports. We love sports in America because it’s often the one place where the goal is clear. Every football field has an end zone; every basketball court has a rim and backboard. We know what the score is and it energizes us. For many, both school and work represent places where we endure the drudgery and eventually disengage.
5. Making good decisions. This one is almost predictable. The students who succeed make right decisions in and out of class. These are decisions that determine their moral compass, their discretionary time, their study habits, their predisposition to cheat, their outside work and how they deal with setbacks and stress. All of these can be pivotal in determining whether a kid succeeds or surrenders. Like us, students must keep a clear objective in mind. May I illustrate? The team who created the popular game Angry Birds spent eight years and almost all their money on more than fifty games before their big success occurred. By 2012, Pinterest was among the fastest-growing websites ever, but it had struggled for some time. In CEO Ben Silbermann’s words, it had “catastrophically small numbers” for a year. He said “if he had listened to popular startup advice he probably would have quit.” James Dyson went through 5,126 prototypes before arriving at his “revolutionary vacuum cleaner.” We all know Thomas Edison failed 10,000 times at inventing the light bulb. The popular company Groupon nearly went out of business-but went on to a “meteoric rise.” And do you know where WD-40’s name came from? It literally means “Water Displacement-40th Attempt.” Somebody kept a clear goal in mind. So must students.