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Volume 18, Issue 12


High school, GPA, grade point average, ninth grade, freshman students, academic outcomes


This study examines the Grade Point Averages (GPAs) of high school freshman in Arkansas and their relationship with later outcomes. Using de-identified student-level data from 2009-10 to 2018-19 from the Arkansas Department of Education, this research investigates trends in freshman GPAs, how these trends vary for different demographic and socioeconomic groups, and the relationship of freshman GPAs to high school graduation and college enrollment.

We follow seven cohorts of Arkansas first-time freshmen who were enrolled in twelfth grade four years later. Using regression analyses controlling only for student demographic characteristics, we find a one-point gain in freshman GPAs to be associated with a six percentage point increase in the likelihood of graduating high school. Although statistically significant, over 95% of Arkansas students currently graduate high school. Our more practical, significant finding is that a one-point gain in freshman GPA is associated with a 26-percentage point increase in the likelihood of college enrollment. This study follows Chicago's Consortium on School Research's findings and finds freshman GPAs strongly influence future academic successes. We discuss our findings on the importance of freshman GPAs, and we suggest policies to help all subgroups of freshmen succeed.