Here's an interesting comment about high school freshman perfomance from this article:
It isn't that these once high-performing students can't do the work. I think that for some, the discovery that they have to work harder than in grammar school surprises -- and sometimes discourages -- them. They're used to knowing everything with very little effort, so when they're faced with a tough class in high school, it throws them. Some lose their confidence; others figure -- in that screwy teenage way -- that if they never really try, they aren't really failing.
The premise of the article is to give high school students fewer, not more, freedoms and choices. Give them fewer opportunities to fail. I'm not sure I agree with the premise since it's unsupported by anything other than opinion. Still, it's worth a read.
The quote above? Couldn't be more true.