The Honors Packet Experiment: Can Celebrating High-Achieving Students Encourage Future Success?


Here’s a common narrative: Students from less privileged backgrounds enter our public schools far behind their peers, and despite the best intentions of all involved, many never catch up.

There's some truth in it. But it is also a dangerous generalization that can cause us to overlook a different, troubling trend. Many students from low income and minority families begin school well prepared and thrive for many years, rising to the top performance levels in their schools, districts, and states. But over time, too many of them slip from that lofty trajectory. Their academic performance goes from outstanding to merely good—or even mediocre.

“Black students who received "Honors Packets" outperformed those who did not; in English language arts, those results were statistically significant.”

Does it have to be like this?

Morbi fringilla convallis sapien, id pulvinar odio volutpat. Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres, quarum. Curabitur blandit tempus ardua ridiculus sed magna.

So what do we make of this?

We think these findings point to several interesting areas for further exploration. We’re curious to see if follow-up experiments lead to similar (or better) outcomes; if student achievement patterns, particularly for Black students in the treatment group, are sustained over time; and how other groups of students (for example, those scoring in the mid or lower achievement categories) might respond to a positive intervention of this kind.

For us, the bottom line is this: Recognizing and celebrating students’ accomplishments should be a consistent priority. For states and districts, this kind of recognition is a relatively low-cost, light-touch investment—and the data suggests it’s one worth trying. Though we can’t say yet whether such simple recognition will have a measurable impact on long-term student outcomes, sending students and their families a long-distance high-five is a way to show our collective investment in their success. Even better, it could prove to be a valuable defense against academic slippage. And if nothing else, it makes students feel good about learning and thriving—and we should all be excited about that.

Read the Full Paper