This article appeared in “The School Review” Vol. 31, No. 6 (June 1923)
A STATISTICAL STUDY OF THE COLLEGE RECORDS
OF THE GRADUATES OF THE STEELE HIGH SCHOOL
Steele High School, Dayton, Ohio
This article reports an attempt on the part of a single high school, in a city of about 200,000 inhabitants, including the suburban population, to determine its success in fitting high-school students for college, without establishing for such students separate classes and without providing additional individual or collective instruction.
The difficulties involved in making an investigation of this type are obvious to all engaged in such work. The possibility of drawing wrong conclusions from insufficient data is evident. Nevertheless, it seems possible to form a few conclusions, at least tentatively, and some of these may be of general interest.
The Steele High School, at Dayton, Ohio, includes only Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors. To this extent it corresponds to the senior high schools of other cities.
Of the 371 students who entered the Steele High School in the autumn of 1918 as Sophomores, 234 graduated in June, 1921. In the autumn of 1921, 97 Steele High School graduates entered college; 17 entered normal school; 2 went to a training school for nurses; and 1 went to an art school- a total of 117. It should be noted that this total includes, not only the graduates of the class of 1921, but also those graduates of earlier years who had been forced by financial or other reasons to remain at home one or more years and who entered college for the first time in 1921.
O f the 433 students who entered the Steele High School in the autumn of 1919 as Sophomores, 285 graduated in June 1922. Of the latter, 98 went to college, 15 to normal school, 3 to a training school for nurses, and 2 to an art school, a total of 118, or 41 per cent of the entire graduating class. In addition, 18 graduates of earlier years entered college for the first time in the autumn of 1922, bringing the total number of Steele High School graduates entering college in the autumn of 1922 up to 136.
The ratio of the total number of students entering college in any one year, including those who remained at home one or more years after graduation, to the number of students who entered the high school as Sophomores three years before, has increased considerably in recent years. In 1921 and in 1922 the percentage was 31. It seems more impressive to say that in 1921 the number of Steele High School graduates entering college was 50 per cent of the number of graduates of that year and that in 1922 the percentage was 48.
From these figures it will be seen that the Steele High School is confronted with the problem of giving a considerable portion of its students training adequate for collegiate work. In connection with this problem an effort has been made to determine the relative scholarship of the different students who have gone to college as compared with their relative standing while in the high school. Their relative standing in college was determined from the grades secured immediately after their first mid-year examinations. This was done in the belief that any inadequacy in the training received in the high school would be more perceptible then than later. Their relative standing in high school was determined by averaging all of the half-year grades secured by each student during his four years of high-school work and then arranging the students in order according to the averages thus secures.
In general, it was found that the students who had high records in their senior year at high school had high records also during the preceding years and that the students who had low records during their senior year had low records also during the preceding years. Except in the case of students forced to be absent from school frequently on account of sickness, the number of students whose grades vary to any considerable extent is small. In many cases such variations can be accounted for most readily by change of teachers. (1)
For purposes of tabulation each class graduation from the high school was divided into six equal parts on the basis of scholarship as determined by the complete high-school records of the students. Those having the highest grades were placed first. Since there were 234 graduates in the class of 1921, each of the six groups in this class included 39 students. The class of 1922 included 285 graduates, and each of the six groups included 47 or 48 students.
In the autumn of 1921 the number of Steele High School graduates entering college for the first time was 177. Of this number, 24 belonged to the first or highest scholarship group; 22 went to college and 2 went to normal school. Of the 19 in the second group, 14 went to college, 4 to normal school, and 1 to a training school for nurses. Of the 19 in the third group, 14 went to college, 3 to normal school, 1 to a training school for nurses, and 1 to an art school. Of the 19 in the fourth group, 14 went to college, and 5 to a normal school. Of the 21 in the fifth group, 19 went to college and 2 to a normal school. Of the 15 in the sixth group, 14 went to college and 1 to normal school.
In the autumn of 1922 the number of Steele High School graduates entering college for the first time was 136. Of this number, 34 belonged to the first scholarship group, 31 went to college, 2 to normal school, and 1 to a training school for nurses. Of the 27 in the second group, 22 went to college, 4 to normal school, and 1 to an art school. Of the 23 in the third group, 18 went to college, 4 to normal school, and 1 to a training school for nurses. Of the 20 in the fourth group, 18 went to college and 2 to normal school. Of the 27 in the fifth group, 22 went to college, 3 to normal school, 1 to a training school for nurses, and 1 to an art school. Of the 5 in the sixth group, all went to college.
These figures present evidence that it is by no means the brightest students who go to college. Those who enter college include a large percentage of students of only average ability and even of distinctly inferior ability.
Similar results were obtained by Professor William F. Book (2) ]
in a survey of the intelligence of high-school Seniors in the state of Indiana. This survey was made in 1919 and is based on definite records from 5,748 Seniors of that year. The various groups of Seniors are rated mentally into ten divisions by a method fully explained in the text. The survey brings out the very significant fact that there are about as many individuals of mediocre and inferior intelligence going to college as students of superior intelligence. The students were divided into three groups: those planning to take the arts course of the ordinary college, those planning to take up engineering or other technical work, and those not intending to go to college at all. Each of these three groups was then separated into ten divisions on the basis of scholarship, in such a manner that by far the greatest number of pupils was included among those listed as of average ability, while far smaller numbers were rated as of exceptional superior ability or as very inferior. The ten divisions of the three groups vary in a strikingly similar manner, irrespective of whether the students are planning to go to an arts college or a technical school or are not planning to go to college. In other words, the students planning to go to an arts college or to a technical school show about the same variations in scholastic ability as those who do not plan to go to college. While they may average slightly higher in general scholastic ability, their superiority is far less than is usually supposed.
Since in the present investigation two graduating classes of the Steele High School were divided into six groups of equal size, the range of grades included in these groups will be of interest. In the class of 1921 the first group ranged from 96.7 per cent to 90 per cent, the lower limits for the remaining groups being 87 per cent, 84 per cent, 82 per cent, 79.3 per cent, and 72.8 per cent, respectively. In the class of 1922 the first group ranged from 98.4 per cent to 91 per cent, the lower limits of the remaining groups being 87.6 per cent, 85.3 per cent, 82.1 per cent, 77.9 per cent, and 74.4 per cent, respectively.
The middle third of the 1921 class ranged from 87 per cent to 82 per cent, while the middle third of the 1922 class ranged from 87.6 per cent to 82.1 per cent. This evidently is a very narrow range and is to be expected if most students are of average ability. It is equally evident, moreover, that any system which excludes from college students belonging to the lower third of their graduating class at high school is certain to exclude a considerable number of students of about the same mental ability as those accepted from among the middle third.
On the contrary, if Professor Book’s method of evaluating mental ability were employed and if those ranking below average in ability were excluded, the result would be more fair to the students. However, the problem of whether the lower third of the high-school graduating class should be excluded from college can be attacked from another point of view, as will be seen later.
In order to determine the fitness of the Steele High School students for collegiate work a questionnaire was sent to all graduates of the class of 1921 and also to the heads of the institutions that they attended. This questionnaire, among other things, asked for all of the grades and for the relative standing of the student at college after the examinations at the close of the first half of the freshman year. In each case an effort was make to find out whether the student was in the upper, middle, or lower third of his class at college.
Replies were received from almost all of the students and colleges, though it proved impossible to secure any response from a few. The results of seventy-eight of these responses are presented in Table I. This table does not include all of the colleges from which information was received.
A study of all of the replies received indicated that 33.7 per cent of the Steele High School students from the class of 1921, regarding whom definite information was at hand, belonged to the upper third of their class at college; 47.3 per cent belonged to the middle third, and only 19 per cent to the lower third. From this it was concluded that the upper third of those Steele students who had gone to college were neither better nor worse than corresponding students from other schools, but that the scholarship of the lower third was distinctly better.
It is not believed that a complete record of all of the students who had gone to college in 1921 would have greatly altered these data, since only one-fourth of those from whom no response was obtained belonged to the lower third in high school, and about the same number belonged to the upper third, leaving the greatest number among the middle or average third.
Possibly the most interesting observations based on the date here discussed resulted from a comparison of the high-school and college records of those students who entered college in 1921.
Of the 25 students who were in the lower third of their class in high school, only 4 remained in the lower third of their class in college, 15 advanced to the middle third, and 6 entered the upper third. Of the 28 students who were in the middle third of their class in high school, only 14 remained there, while 8 dropped to the lower third, and 6 advanced to the upper third. Of the 37 students who were in the upper third of their class in high school, 20 remained in the upper third in college, 13 dropped to the middle third, and 4 dropped to the lower third.
The remarkable rise in the standing of some of the students who had belonged to the lower third of their class in high school is noteworthy. Personal knowledge of these students revealed the fact that they were the “pluggers.” They were accustomed to hard work, even in the high school. It required well-directed effort for these students to secure even such standing as they had acquired in the high school. It should be remembered that in order to rise to the middle third their grades had to equal or exceed 82 per cent. When these students entered college, they began to work earnestly from the very beginning, and they kept on working. There were in new surroundings; much of the work was new and interesting; no one knew of their previous relatively low standing in high school; they had an opportunity to make a new record, and they did.
But what about the students who had been in the upper third in high school but had dropped back in college? Some, at least, of these students have facile memories and can glance over a lesson, make an excellent recitation the same day, and largely forget it the next day. When they meet the much longer assignments in lessons in college and the much larger demands for thorough comprehension, mere memorizing fails, and they show their weakness. Of course, such statements apply only to a part of the upper third of the high-school classes. As is well known, most of those college students who are recognized as capable and ambitious come from the ranks of those whose scholarship was excellent in high school.
Some estimate of the efficiency of the training given in the Steele High School can be obtained from the success of the students in securing scholarships. In the class of 1922, one of the girls secured the Pulitzer scholarship for $600 a year at Barnard College, in a competitive examination based on examinations of the College Entrance Examination Board. Two other girls won $200 scholarships at Brenau College in a competitive examination held by the college. In addition, one girl holds a $100 scholarship at Northwestern University; one boy holds a $400 scholarship at Harvard University; another, a $300 scholarship at Swarthmore College; and two hold $240 scholarships at Yale University. Practically all of these scholarships can be held for four years, provided the scholarship of the students remain of a high standing.
The examinations of the College Entrance Examination Board also form a criterion of the kind of preparation offered by the school. Of course, only a very small part of the graduating class comes up for examination, because the Steele High School is on the accredited list of the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools and this list is recognized by many of the eastern schools, so that the examinations are taken only by those pupils who plan to go to those eastern colleges which demand examinations of all applicants. In June, 1922, twelve graduates took these examinations, and ten of them passed. No provision was made for special training of these pupils. Such training as they had was that given to all pupils, in the same subjects, whether going to college or not.
In a study of this kind, the greatest difficulty is offered in attempting to evaluate the grades given by the different colleges. Different systems of grading are employed, which, no doubt, are perfectly clear to the students and to the professors of the colleges involved but are difficult to interpret in terms of percentages comparable with those of other colleges. It would be advantageous if colleges interested in the statistical investigation of educational problems would explain fully, in their catalogs or elsewhere, the significance of the letters and other marks used in their systems of grading, including, if possible, the relative number of students securing such grades during the preceding year.
(1) Clarence Truman Gray, Variations in the Grades of High School Pupils. Educational Psychology Monographs, No. 8. Baltimore: Warwick & York, 1913. Pp. 120.
(2) William F. Book, The Intelligence of High-School Seniors. New York: Macmillan Co., 1922. Pp. xviii+372.