Strategies Can Help High-Achieving Minority Students Stay on Track

Report: “Falling Out of the Lead: Following High Achievers Through High School and Beyond”  Authors: Marni Bromberg, research associate, and Christina Theokas, director of research at the Education Trust Organization: The Education Trust

Summary:  Nationally, many minority and low-income students start high school performing in the top quarter of their classes in reading and mathematics. Many, however, leave high school with lower grade point averages and college-placement scores than those of their high-achieving white and more advantaged peers. The report examines ways that schools can better serve those students.


  • High-achieving white, black, and Hispanic students take similar course loads in high school. However, high-achieving students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds are less likely to take advanced math, advanced science, and Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate courses than are their more advantaged peers.
  • Performance gaps develop during high school, with minority and low-income students ending up with lower grade point averages and college-placement scores and lower AP success rates. As a result, those students are less likely to enroll in selective four-year colleges.
  • High expectations, strong support systems, and close, personal relationships can keep more of those students on track.

Bottom Line: Schools that create a college-going culture by closely tracking students’ progress and providing access to authentic college-level work in high school, the researchers conclude, can help more students who start out strong remain that way.