How to tell if my child is gifted or smart? Do grades matter in early education? Should I consider looking at tutoring prices? These are some of the questions a lot of parents ask when they’re trying to figure out what their child’s grades mean early in elementary school.

When little Jimmy’s 1st grade teacher tells you he’s struggling in math or when little Suzy’s 2nd grade teacher says she’s a math wiz, does it mean one’s bound for McDonalds and the other for Harvard? It very well could. But, if it’s the 3rd grade teacher, then you better pay attention.

Students who are not performing well (specifically students in the lower third) by the 3rd grade are very unlikely to catch up, according to the Fordham Institute’s Do High Flyers Maintain their Altitude and K5 Learning. The results also indicate that students who are top achievers in the third grade will likely continue their success.

The study administered standardized math and reading tests to tens of thousands of students. It found that 3rd grade students who performed in the bottom third in reading and math tests had less than a 1 percent chance of being “high achievers” by grade 8. Average students (who scored in the 40-60 percentiles) had less than a 5 percent chance of becoming high achievers in later grades.

Similar results hold true for top achievers. A high-achieving 3rd grade math student was 17 times more likely to be a high-achieving 8th grader than the average 3rd grader and 142 times more likely when compared to a low-achiever. These results were fairly similar for reading scores.

The study only considered students’ achievement through 8th grade. But, other studies indicate 8th grade achievement can be very indicative. It may seem like a stretch, but 8th grade success can determine high school success, which can determine college success, which can determine future career success.

A 2009 McKinsey study Detailed findings on the economic impact of the achievement gap in America’s schools found that students who scored in the top 25th percentile and higher are six times more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree. Nearly 70 percent of top earners have at least a bachelor’s degree.

So, you still want to let your kids be kids, hoping they’ll catch up later?

Learning and success is a continuum. Yes, some students can find unprecedented success in high school or even college. But, that’s not the majority. Students who perform well in college have a long history of academic success, stemming all the way back to early grades.

All you have to do is push your child to learn absolutely everything he/she can in each grade; so they will continue their success. That’s why a lot of parents invest in early education tutors from and prep services to ensure their children absolutely maximize their learning potential. But, most importantly, the best tutors can show young students how to apply what they learned in the 3rd grade to what they’ll learn in the 4th grade, 5th grade – and constantly build on each grade all the way up through college.