Spread of Academic Success in a High School SocialNetwork
, Christina Kavanaugh
, Cara Boothroyd
, Brianna Benson
, Julie Gallagher
, Hiroki Sayama
Maine-Endwell High School, Endwell, New York, United States of America,
Binghamton University, State University of New York, Binghamton, New York, United Statesof America
Application of social network analysis to education has revealed how social network positions of K-12 students correlatewith their behavior and academic achievements. However, no study has been conducted on how their social network influences their academic progress over time. Here we investigated correlations between high school students’ academicprogress over one year and the social environment that surrounds them in their friendship network. We found that studentswhose friends’ average GPA (Grade Point Average) was greater (or less) than their own had a higher tendency towardincreasing (or decreasing) their academic ranking over time, indicating social contagion of academic success taking place intheir social network.
Blansky D, Kavanaugh C, Boothroyd C, Benson B, Gallagher J, et al. (2013) Spread of Academic Success in a High School Social Network. PLoS ONE 8(2):e55944. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055944
Sergio Go´mez, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Spain
September 3, 2012;
January 7, 2013;
February 13, 2013
2013 Blansky et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permitsunrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
This material is based upon work supported by the US National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1027752. The funders had no role in study design,data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.* E-mail: email@example.com
Application of social network analysis  to educational systemsis a promising yet unexplored research area. A small number of studies investigated how the positions of K-12 students in theirsocial network are correlated with their behavior and academicachievements. Farmer and Rodkin’s work  was among theearliest of its kind, in which they studied correlations betweensocial network centralities of elementary school children and theirbehavioral traits, such as cooperativeness, leadership, popularity,athleticism and aggressiveness. More recently, Bishop  found,through statistical analysis of the Add Health data , thatstudents in positions with higher centrality had significantly bettergrades than those with lower centrality. Similar correlationsbetween academic achievements and centrality or popularity insocial networks were also found in different data sets [5,6], thoughit was also reported that the correlations depended significantly onethnic and other social contexts .These earlier findings naturally leads one to ask anotherquestion that may be more relevant to educators and studentsthemselves: How does a student’s social network environmentinfluence his or her academic progress
? Unfortunately,none of the studies mentioned above provides a direct clue to thisquestion, because their statistical analyses were all applied to staticsnapshots of students’ social networks and their grades, withoutany temporal changes taken into consideration.To gain insight into the aforementioned question, we in- vestigated, for the first time, the correlations between high schoolstudents’ academic progress over one year and the socialenvironment that surrounds them in their friendship network.The students’ social network was reconstructed based on theresults of an electronic survey asking them about their friendships,while the data about their academic progresses were obtaineddirectly from their school’s official academic records. Our resultsshowed that students whose friends’ average GPA (Grade Point Average) was greater (or less) than their own had a highertendency toward increasing (or decreasing) their academic ranking over time, indicating social contagion of academic success taking place in their social network.
The study was approved by the Binghamton UniversityInstitutional Review Board with permission from the Maine-Endwell Central School District. All data were obtained withwritten informed consent reviewed by the Binghamton UniversityInstitutional Review Board (IRB). According to the researchprotocol reviewed and approved by the Binghamton UniversityIRB, the researchers are not allowed to share the data with thirdparties outside the research team. Contact the corresponding author for more details.We reconstructed a social network of the eleventh grade class atMaine-Endwell High School, Endwell, NY, USA, by developing an online survey and administering it on January 11, 2011. Wereceived 160 responses (response rate: 92%), two of which wereincomplete and therefore excluded from the statistical analysis(
158). In the survey, the students were given a list of all theother students taking the survey, and asked to decide whether eachof them were a best friend, a friend, an acquaintance, someonethey did not know, or if they were related. The first threecategories were used for social network reconstruction and
PLOS ONE | www.plosone.org 1 February 2013 | Volume 8 | Issue 2 | e55944