Social Support, Academic Press, and Student Achievement: A View from the Middle Grades in Chicago

October, 1999
Valerie E. Lee, Julia B. Smith, Tamara E. Perry, and Mark A. Smylie
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This report from the Chicago Annenberg Research Project focuses on the relationships of student social support and school academic press to gains in student achievement. Analyses of citywide survey data and achievement test scores of sixth and eighth grade students in Chicago reveal that students learn most when they experience both strong academic press in their schools and strong social support from people in and out of their schools. By contrast, if one of these conditions is strong and the other is weak, students learn less, and if both are weak, their academic achievement is comparatively small. The report pairs these findings with examples from fieldwork that illustrate steps schools can take to strengthen both social support and academic press to promote student learning. This report challenges "either-or" proposals for school reform that view academic rigor and social support for students as contradictory strategies. Instead, it argues that student social support and school academic press are complementary strategies that work best in tandem.

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