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Want to help teens graduate high school?

You can figure out which kids need help as early as the 4th grade.

That’s just one finding of a new study by the Public Policy Institute of California. Researchers examined San Diego Unified schools in detail, looking for correlations between test scores, grades and even behavior and later success on the California High School Exit Exam.

One of the best ways to predict a child’s success on the exam is their 4th grade report card, the study found. Grades in the 4th grade are a stronger predictor of exit-exam success than a child’s standardized test scores or their teacher’s experience, the study found.

That means schools can identify at-risk students and intervene early, said University of California, San Diego economics professor Julian Betts, who presented his findings to the school board Tuesday night.

Another interesting finding is the importance of classroom behavior. I’ve recently profiled a few schools that have seen test scores bloom when they tackled behavioral issues. You might remember Webster Elementary School, which proactively teaches behaviors like eye contact and picking up trash, or Keiller Leadership Academy, which instituted uniforms to quash gang problems. Here’s what the study found, according to a PPIC press release:

Classroom behavior is more important than math and reading test scores in forecasting test performance. San Diego teachers evaluate students in categories such as “follows directions,” “classroom behavior,” and “self-discipline.” The PPIC study translates these measures into a “behavior GPA.” For every one-point increase in the behavior GPA in fourth grade, students increase their likelihood of passing the exit exam in 10th grade by 3.7 percent and in 12th grade by 5-6 percent.

EMILY ALPERT

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