Does Prior Exposure to Subject Content in High School Help College Students?

bryceplattBlog, Education, Higher Ed, MusingsLeave a Comment

Students who took an introductory course on a subject matter in high school and then took an introductory course on the same subject in college demonstrate little to no significant advantage in their college grade, relative to students who took no such high school course. In this graph, the bar represents the gain in course GPA for students who had taken a similar high school course, with 90% confidence intervals superimposed on the bars.
Screenshot 2016-08-08 at 11.02.43 AM

The only significant value-added from this study is for prior instruction in calculus, a subject where perhaps repetition is more beneficial and knowledge is more cumulative. The value-added of prior exposure to the behavioral and social sciences is negligent.

Are high school students not learning, are they learning without accompanying critical thinking, are they learning the wrong stuff, or are college grades arbitrary?



  1. Do you have hypotheses supported by theory and consistent with this data?
  2. Do high school courses in behavioral and social sciences have value?
  3. If so, why doesn’t that value translate into improved grades in college?

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