IZA DP No. 7940: "I wish I knew ..." - Misperceived Ability, School Track Counseling Services and Performances in Upper Secondary Education
Previous research shows that, in tracked school systems, enrollment decisions are strongly associated with future outcomes both in education and on the labour market. Yet few studies explicitly investigate whether students (and their parents) have all the relevant information they need to make proper decisions. We address this issue by exploiting the data collected within the Arianna Project, an independent school track counseling service run by the municipality of a large city in Northern Italy (Turin). Virtually all students in the final year of lower secondary education participate into the program and they receive advices based on standardized cognitive and non-cognitive tests. Our dataset is uniquely enriched by information on students' pre-test enrollment intentions, their final track choices and their performances in the upper secondary school. We show that students' enrollment intentions are very often inconsistent with their actual potential as revealed by Arianna. However, students (and their parents) are likely to revise their initial choice when new information on their true abilities is made available to them. Moreover, we find that students who eventually make track choices in line with Arianna's suggestions are less likely to be retained in the first year of the upper secondary education.