Genes account for 50% of classroom performance.

News of the day; your genes have a strong effect on how you perform at school. Not exactly shocking.

Added Value Measures in Education Show Genetic as Well as Environmental Influence

Does achievement independent of ability or previous attainment provide a purer measure of the added value of school? In a study of 4000 pairs of 12-year-old twins in the UK, we measured achievement with year-long teacher assessments as well as tests. Raw achievement shows moderate heritability (about 50%) and modest shared environmental influences (25%). Unexpectedly, we show that for indices of the added value of school, genetic influences remain moderate (around 50%), and the shared (school) environment is less important (about 12%). The pervasiveness of genetic influence in how and how much children learn is compatible with an active view of learning in which children create their own educational experiences in part on the basis of their genetic propensities.

This is a massive study, involving  8,000 children  both MZ and DZ twins. An interesting snippet from it…

Previous twin studies on school performance have indicated moderate heritability around 40–60% [10], [11], [12], [13]. Studies specifically focusing on reading abilities show a similar pattern of results with moderate to high heritability and modest shared environmental influences [14], [15]. More recently, studies have also included mathematical abilities, which typically show high heritabilities around 60–70% [16], [17]. A striking finding is that genetic influences appear to have largely generalist effects across diverse cognitive and academic abilities [18], [19]. For example, the average genetic correlation (an index of the degree to which genetic influences on one trait also influence another trait) between diverse cognitive and academic domains was 0.70 in a recent review.

I’d like to say from personal observation.. the parents of the better performing kids at my own children’s school are almost uniformly from a higher than average SES group; the ‘nice’ parents, while the those struggling mainly seem to be the children of the underclass. My own little darlings are (I risk being snobbish) both a couple of years ahead of the norm, which matches very well with both my partner and I being in the tiny ‘top’ group at our school, and both being able to read at a pre school age. Really, it would be surprising if there wasn’t a genetic component to classroom performance, as IQ is substantially inherited, as are behavioural conditions like ADHD.


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