Recognizing High Achievement in Context: A Multilevel Analysis of Friends' Values and Individuals' Motivation and Background as Associated with the Identification of Tenth-Graders by Teachers and Test Performance

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The relationships of school context, motivation, and individual background to receiving teacher nominations for advanced work and/or scoring in the top decile on a standardized test of achievement were examined in both English and mathematics using survey data collected from a nationally-representative sample of tenth grade students as part of the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002. This study builds upon previous research examining the relationships between students identified as high-achieving by test score criteria and by teacher nomination criteria by exploring whether certain characteristics of students and their schools systematically make them more or less likely to meet them.

Students' individual perceptions of their school context were only associated with achievement criteria met in math. Students who perceived their friends to be the least socially-oriented were most likely to meet both criteria. Further, male students who perceived their friends to be the least academically-oriented were the most likely to have high test performance but no teacher nomination. Students who were self-efficacious and intrinsically motivated were the most likely to meet both criteria in English and in math The relationship of intrinsic motivation in math to having high achievement recognized by teachers in this area was especially prominent for male students.

Further, students of Black or Hispanic ethnicity were more likely than were white students to be nominated as high achieving by teachers despite lower test performance, as were students from lower socioeconomic statuses. Male students, on the other hand, were more likely than females overall to have high test performance without being nominated as high-achieving by teachers. Specific aspects of these relationships vary between subject areas. In addition to several associations with individual characteristics, the proportions of students identified as high-achieving only by teachers differ systematically among schools. This variation can be explained by several school-level variables, including school socioeconomic status and minority composition.

These findings affirm that there are systematic differences between students identified as high-achieving by teacher nominations and by test scores. Learning more about these differences will help teachers and administrators to consider explicitly these factors when identifying adolescent students for special programs and other recognitions.