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Genes, School, and Achievement

Genetics might matter more than what school a child attends for his or her academic achievement, New Scientist reports.

Researchers from King's College London studied 4,814 students in the UK who attended state-funded non-selective schools, state-funded selective schools, or selective private schools who'd undergone genotyping. As they report this week in npj Science of Learning, the researchers found that the students who attended selective schools fared better on the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) exam taken by 16-year-olds in the UK. The type of school students attended at first appeared to influence about 7 percent of their scores, but when the controlled for factors such schools being able to choose students based on ability and socioeconomic factors, that difference disappeared.

Instead, the researchers compared the students' DNA using a genome-wide polygenic score based on a genome-wide association study of education achievement. Students' polygenic scores, the researchers report, contributed to about 8 percent of the difference in GCSE results.

This scoring, the Guardian notes, is controversial and may not be a true measure of either intelligences or academic potential.

"Our study suggests that for educational achievement there appears to be little added benefit from attending selective schools. While schools are crucial for academic achievement, the type of school appears less so," first author Emily Smith-Woolley from King's College London tells the Telegraph.