Assessment, Opinion, Pathways, School Community

Can We Accurately Predict a Student’s Future Success?

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Educators often feel that they can predict students’ academic futures. For instance, they may think that they can tell how students will perform in Grade 8 or Grade 9 as early as Grades 1 or 2. There is research evidence to show that predictions about students’ futures are often wrong.

There are strong links between characteristics of students, such as their socio-economic status or their school readiness, and their later achievement but these relationships do not hold for all individuals. Many studies show that these predictions turn out to be wrong much more often than most people think. Canadian data shows that more than 40 percent of students scoring at the bottom reading level at age 15 were in post- secondary education at age 21. Research also shows that the accuracy of predictions about students declines over time; that is, one year’s achievement predicts the following year’’s quite well, but is less accurate in predicting achievement 3 or 4 years later.

The key thing that the research tells us is that students can and do change. With the right supports, students can achieve far more than anyone thought they could. Encouragement and support from both schools and families can also make those negative predictions less likely to be true.

Parents and educators should be cautious in assuming that the future of their child may be predicted based on their current performance. Secondly, parents should be actively involved in supporting and advocating for their child rather than accepting a negative future. This might include being optimistic with the child about the future, or the child’s teacher to identifying areas where home and school can work together

Additional Resources For Parents

Promoting Parental Involvement, Improving Student Outcomes by Gina Gianzero: This paper discusses how different forms of parental involvement increases student success in school.


Ontario Ministry of Education: This site provides tips on a variety of ways to help parents may help their struggling children.


Special Needs Opportunity Window: This link provides web based resources and community organizations that support parents whose children may have special needs.


People for Education: This site provides tip sheets to parents on various ways that they can help support their child in school. The tip sheets are offered in 19 different languages.



Research References Informing this Issue

Badian, N. (1988). The Prediction of Good and Poor Reading Before Kindergarten Entry: A Nine-Year Follow-Up. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 21(2), 98-103.

Brownell M., Roos, N., Fransoo, R., Guevrèmont, A., MacWilliam, L., Derksen, S., Dik, N., Bogdanovic, B., & Sirski, M. (2004). How do educational outcomes vary with socioeconomic status? Key findings from the Manitoba Child Health Atlas 2004. Winnipeg, MB. Manitoba Centre for Health Policy.

Bowers, A. (2007). Grades and graduation: Using K-12 longitudinal cohort data to predict on-time graduation. Paper presented to the American Educational research Association, Chicago.

Gleason, P., and Dynarski, M. (2002). Do we know whom to serve? Issues in using risk factors to identify dropouts. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 7(1), 25-41.

Morgan, P., Farkas, G. and Wu, Q. (2009). Five-Year Growth Trajectories of Kindergarten Children with Learning Difficulties in Mathematics. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42(4), 306.

OECD (2010). Pathways to success: How knowledge and skills at age 15 shape future lives in Canada. Paris: OECD.

Meet the Expert(s)

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education