A study released this week and published in the journal Educational Researcher shows high school grade point averages predict college graduation rates five times more accurately than ACT scores. The study examined 55,084 students who graduated from Chicago Public Schools between 2006 and 2009 and immediately attended a four-year college.
The GPA correlation is consistent regardless of which school the student attended, according to the study. Conversely, there was no correlation between ACT score and college graduation rate at some schools, and researchers also found in some schools that higher ACT scores resulted in lower graduation rates.
The study shows each incremental increase in GPA improved the odds of the high school student graduating from college. In a press release, the researchers said the results of the study run contrary to the assumption that standardized test scores are reliable, neutral indicators of success and that the findings suggest grades are powerful gauges in determining college readiness.
Though standardized tests are still the primary tool used by federal and state governments to measure student achievement, the Every Student Succeeds Act has embraced the use of a broader set of metrics to measure student and school success. Colleges and universities, likewise, are also increasingly embracing alternate metrics as predictors of college success in enrollment decisions.
For example, Indiana University Bloomington will no longer use the SAT or ACT as a general admission requirement, a move validating the test-optional admissions movement that's gaining steam. Student advocates have also sued the University of California System on the grounds that relying on standardized test scores is discriminatory.
The University of North Carolina tested the test-optional theory by allowing three of its schools to waive the SAT and ACT requirements in the admission processes as long as students had strong GPAs. The results of the pilot show that once in college, students with lower ACT or SAT scores performed as well as their peers who earned ACT or SAT scores that met schools' typical threshold.
The movement to do away with ACT/SAT scores still has a long way to go, however. Despite the research and push by advocacy groups to eliminate these requirements, most colleges and universities continue to use the tests as a benchmark for admissions. Of 221 colleges surveyed in a report by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, 45.7% considered the SAT/ACT scores of “considerable Importance,” while only 5% said they were of “no importance.”