The Power of X – Just What is That?

X SkillsA few years ago, the ACT Company released the results of a study titled The Forgotten Middle which concluded that how a student performs by the end of 8th grade is the best indicator of how successful they will be in college and beyond and their evidence proved this by an overwhelming margin. To some this might be a surprising revelation. Many would intuitively assume that high school academic performance would be more of a predictive factor; however, the results of The Forgotten Middle study demonstrated that, by the time a student starts high school, the die may have already been cast.

An interesting facet of the report’s conclusions was that the single greatest factor which influenced success was not academic knowledge, but academic discipline. This includes skills such as planning and organization; follow-through and action; and sustained effort. All of these X-skills fall into a category known as Executive Functions, which are described as the skills human beings develop to execute tasks independently.

Within this context, it is not surprising that 8th grade performance provides an early-warning system for post-secondary college or career readiness. If a student is not well on their way to developing the skills necessary to organize, prioritize and execute a multitude of competing tasks at the middle school level, they may find themselves falling further behind in high school and less prepared for the rigor of college or establishing a career.

Of course, students with limited or fragile academic foundations will feel the effects of this more than students who have established strong academic foundations prior to 8th grade. However, even those students who have been very successful in their academics through middle school may find that they need to work on their organizational and prioritization skills to sustain that high level of academic performance while pursuing an advanced high school curriculum. In particular, they may find that they need to focus more effort on their prioritization and time-management skills.

For the most part, students can be coached to improve the skills which contribute to strong academic discipline. In order to be effective though, this type of coaching does require the willing participation of the student, as well as, the participation of a mentor or parent to provide accountability.


tutor doctor logoThis article was contributed by Steve Magat, Owner/Education Consultant of Tutor Doctor of Richmond West.   For parents who are interested in learning more about how to develop their students’ executive skill set, they can call Tutor Doctor, 804 912-1103 for a FREE consultation.