New research might revolutionise how Danish classrooms are composed

April 17th, 2015

This article is more than 9 years old.

Strong students don’t lift the performance of weaker classmates

Contrary to popular belief, research from the liberal think-tank Cepos suggests that high-performing schoolchildren do not lift up the weaker children in their class, Politiken reports.

Henrik Christoffersen, the research head of Cepos and a part-time lecturer at the department of economics at the University of Copenhagen, told the newspaper that the results were a surprise.

“Until now we’ve assumed it would strengthen the weak students being in a class with a lot of students from a strong socioeconomic background,” he said.

“But the study shows this is not the case.”

Classmate effect
Previous studies that have ostensibly demonstrated the so-called classmate effect – in which the strong students have a positive impact on the performance of the weak ones – have been based on the results of the class taken as a whole, whereas Cepos’s study looked at the individual students.

Cepos looked at the school-finishing exam results of all public school pupils finishing the ninth grade in 2012, finding that the weak students did not perform better. However, it was also established that the results of the strong students were not negatively affected by the presence of less proficient classmates and actually performed slightly better.

The classmate effect has long been used to justify education policy. Mette With Hagensen, the chair of the parents’ and students’ organisation Skole og Forældre, thinks that school boards should take the revelation into account in class planning. “We’ve always mixed classes with the intention of lifting students,” she said.

“It’s too bad if this isn’t the case. At the same time, we should insist there is value in children being in class with someone who is different from them.”


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