Even ambitious students face challenges to academic performance.
Even ambitious students face challenges to academic performance.

Academic performance does not hinge on the raw intelligence and work ethic of a student alone. Other factors can contribute to a student's level of success throughout all stages of education. Some elements have a stronger effect than others. Being aware of what factors may have a negative impact on academic success may better prepare parents, teachers and students to deal with them.

Socioeconomic Status

According to the American Psychological Association, students whose families are of low socioeconomic status progress more slowly academically than their wealthier peers. Wealth and status are an umbrella for many issues that affect performance, including suffering chronic stress, having little to no homework help available at home, and having obligations around the house or at a part-time job that may curtail study time. Literacy and development issues can begin to affect children before they are even of school age, putting them at an immediate disadvantage.

Parents' Education

The amount and quality of homework and study assistance available at home can impact a student's performance. But that's not the only way in which the level of education achieved by a student's parents or guardians can limit or improve the student's ability to achieve. Parents are "expectancy socializers," according to researchers at Wayne State University. If they set the bar of success high for their children and systematically encourage them, it's more likely that their children will perform well at school. And those expectations for success are connected to the amount of education a parent has received.

Class Size

The students-per-teacher ratio of a school is a statistic that interests many parents and is often used as a recruitment tool. But how much does class size really matter when it comes to student performance? The Center for Public Education found that smaller class sizes (18 students or fewer) had the greatest benefit for kindergarten and early elementary school students, but that the benefits hinge on the quality of the teachers. The largest achievement gains were observed in minority students and those of low socioeconomic status, providing a concrete strategy to combat the challenges faced by these populations. And the effects are lasting. Students who learned in less-populated classrooms in elementary school scored higher on ninth grade standardized tests than their peers.