Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Tink, Albert K.||Schmidt, Wesley I.

Degree Name

M.S. (Master of Science)


School of Education




The fact that some students with apparently high ability do very poorly while some students with average ability receive failing marks, and others with apparently mediocre ability do well, has presented a unique challenge to many people in the American school system. High school pupils or lower grade pupils who do not achieve academic success many times are called underachievers. But, what is an underachiever? Who is he or she? What criteria was used in determining and identifying the underachiever? What are some of the reasons and/or causes of underachievement? The purpose of this paper is to develop a systematic approach to the above questions by the use of three different comparisons for determining and classifying the underachiever. Also a description of some of the characteristics of an underachiever and some reasons and/or causes of underachievement will be presented. The following are some limitations encountered in the study: When using test results, one encounters the limitations of testing. When using high school grade point, one encounters different types of curricula and also subjectivity of individual teacher grading. When establishing cut-off points for the purpose of classification, the author used the mean of percentiles because this was the form in which the data was available. The following methods were used for comparison: Method 1 Mental ability compared to achievement test scores. Method 2 Mental ability compared to school grade point. Method 3 Achievement test scores compared to school grade point. The author's sample group consisted of 187 students in one high school class. To establish mental ability, two forms of a group intelligence test were administered one year apart; and, a mean of the two was used for individual intelligence quotients. A complete battery of Iowa Basic Skills achievement tests was given and the average of the seven sub-tests was used. Three years of high school grade point were used as a grade point average. The results of the raw scores received from administering the above two tests and school grade point average were converted to percentiles. After comparing individual percentile ranks, then developing a standard of the degree of difference of the comparison, one could determine and classify different types of underachievers. The results derived from the study were the following: 1. More boys than girls were identified as underachievers. 2. About the same total number of individuals were identified by each different method. 3. About 50 per cent of the individuals identified by a method were identified only by that one method. The following assumptions were reported in literature and were further supported in this study. The method used was personal interview with those students identified as underachievers from the author's sample group: 1. Underachievers more often than not came from homes with unhappy emotional climates. 2. Parents had a negative attitude toward education and could see no value in education. 3. Underachieving students felt inferior and had little self-respect. 4. Many underachievers had long-established or temporary hostile attitudes toward school authority and/or individual teachers. 5. Many individuals had not gained knowledge of basic skills through past schooling, so they could not perform to the level of expectancy on achievement tests. From the findings, the author recommends that all schools, at all levels, use the systematic comparison to determine and classify the underachiever. After examining the resulting profile to find individual underachievers, a program should be developed to counsel the individuals in the cause or reasons for their particular underachievement, and to carry through this program to correct the situation. The author recommends that treatment for the bulk of underachievers would be handled by classroom procedures and through curricular adjustments, remedial instruction and counseling. Counseling, however, would not be restricted to that provided by counselors. It might be done by the teacher, the psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker. Since parental cooperation and understanding are essential for effective treatment, the school social worker, teacher or counselor must work closely with parents in the corrective program.


Includes bibliographical references.


viii, 59 pages




Northern Illinois University

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