Lives of Promise
What Becomes of High School Valedictorians
This important book is based on the findings of the Illinois Valedictorian Project, the first systematic research study of high school valedictorians. Lives of Promise examines the question of what doing well in school actually means. The study follows the academic and nonacademic lives of eighty-one high school valedictorians for fourteen years after graduation. The author, Karen D. Arnold, documents not only a generation who began their adult lives in America during the 1980s and 1990s, but also the viability of some of our fundamental assumptions about what our schools measure and reward. Written in accessible, jargon-free language, the book explores the obstaclesincluding those of gAnder and racethat hinder our presumed future leaders.Using illustrative examples, the author provides lessons about the nature of success, the consequences of academic achievement, and the conditions that foster attainment in early adulthood. The book addresses head-on the urgent national debates on the failure of American education to develop future leaders from our pool of increasingly diverse youth. Some of the study's findings include the following:** at all levels of education, hard work, perseverance, and focus, as opposed to natural ability, are the most important factors for academic success** committment and involvement of faculty are key to the academic and career success of women, minorities, and first-generation college students** minority valedictorians struggle with obstacles such as financial problems, lack of support by faculty, and isolation in predominantly white universities.Social scientists, psychologists, high school and college administrators, educators of the talented and gifted, school counselors, student development scholars, college admissions professionals, and parents will find this book an invaluable resource if they are to chart the course for valedictorians of the future.
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