Academic journal article High School Journal

Study Behaviors of College Preparatory and Honors Students in the Ninth Grade

Academic journal article High School Journal

Study Behaviors of College Preparatory and Honors Students in the Ninth Grade

Article excerpt

The first large, multinational study of academic achievement among secondary school students was conducted in 1964 (Husen, 1967). In this study, the indication was that academic achievement of secondary school students in the United States was lagging behind the academic achievement of students in other industrialized nations. At that time, the mathematics achievement of 13-year-old students in the United States ranked 11th among the 12 nations studied and 17-year-old students ranked last. Numerous researchers since that time have continued to document that students in the United States rank below students in other countries (Crosswhite, Dossey, Swafford, McKnight, & Cooney, 1985; Geary, Fan, & Bow-Thomas, 1992; Lapointe, Mead, & Askew, 1992; Miller & Lynn, 1989; Stevenson, Chen, & Lee, 1993). What is particularly troubling about the results of these studies is that even the best students in the United States lag far behind students from other countries. With regard to mathematics, for example, Husen (1967) reported that 80% of college-bound students in the United States scored below the international average. Miller and Lynn (1989) found that students at the 95th percentile among college-bound students in the United States were at the 30th percentile for Japanese students and 50th percentile for British students. More recently, Stevenson et al. (1993) found that the top 10% of high school seniors in the United States were achieving at the 50th percentile for Japanese students.

Concern over the relative standing of American students in the international community led to the declaration that the United States is "A Nation at Risk" (1984, but see Berliner and Biddle, 1995 and Rotbert, 1991 for contrary views). Following this report by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, several waves of reform have swept over education in this country. These reforms have been driven by a variety of proposals (e.g., Adler, 1982; Boyer, 1983; Goodlad, 1983; Sizer, 1992). Unfortunately, all of these proposals have focused on finance, organization, administration, and curriculum. The buzz words of reform have been "high standards, world-class outcomes, excellence, opportunities to learn, accountability, and assessments" (Ysseldyke & Greenen, 1996, p. 418). Thus, reform proposals have been made without regard for whether or not students possess the academic skills necessary for success in restructured schools. In addition, the actual reforms that have been implemented have involved statewide mandates that increased standards and implemented accountability procedures but have not involved the implementation of specific procedures to increase students' academic achievement (Knoff & Curtis, 1996).

Although some researchers have questioned the ability of special education students to benefit from current school reforms (Ysseldyke & Greenen, 1996), this concern needs to be extended to all students. In recent studies, researchers have shown that general education students in secondary schools typically lack the academic skills needed to cope with higher academic standards (Jones, Slate, Bell, & Saddler, 1991; Jones, Slate, Blake, & Holifield, 1992; Slate, Jones, & Dawson, 1993). Furthermore, students are unlikely to develop adequate study skills on their own. That is, when students do not succeed academically, they simply do more of what they were already doing rather than developing new learning strategies (Diekhoff & Dansereau, 1 982).

Even the study skills of the highest achieving secondary school students may be insufficient for them to benefit maximally from school reforms. For example, Castagna and Codd (1984) found that students at a private academy typically defined "studying" as simply reading an assignment once, and "studying hard" as reading an assignment more than once. More recently, Slate et al. (1993) found that, although students in upper academic tracks had better academic skills than did students in lower tracks, students in the top track were still properly performing only 52% of the academic skills assessed and students in the second highest track were performing only 46% of these skills properly. …

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