The Truth is Powerful
Rank effects in education
A burgeoning literature on rank effects in education has found that students who are highly ranked in their class or grade have better long-term outcomes, even after accounting for absolute levels of ability and performance. This column uses this finding to shed light on other educational phenomena, such as the impact of high-achieving peers and the persistent gender gap in STEM subjects. The sizeable effects of (sometimes misleading) academic rank raise policy questions about whether and how students should be informed of data that could influence their decisions about subject and career choices.
There are many contemporary policy-related debates in education, such as whether high-ability peers affect student achievement and how to encourage more female students to choose STEM programmes in college and university. Interestingly, how we think about these issues may be determined by whether students are influenced by their academic rank relative to other children in their class or year group. When studying academic rank, researchers typically evaluate students based on their performance in aptitude or achievement tests with the goal of determining whether – holding all else equal, including absolute levels of ability or performance – having a higher rank leads to better subsequent student outcomes.
The effect […]