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Study Finds GPA, Not College Entrance Tests, Best Predictor of Need for Remedial Classes

Study Finds GPA, Not College Entrance Tests, Best Predictor of Need for Remedial Classes

A new study from Alaskan researchers has found that standardized tests like the ACT and SAT are not good determinants of whether or not a student needs to take remedial classes.

Instead, the researchers found that high school GPA is a better indicator of a student’s skill level.

The study, funded by the U.S. Department of Education and carried out at the University of Alaska, indicates that standardized tests might not be as useful determinants of student success as we’ve modeled our system to reflect.

"For students who enrolled directly in college, high school grade point average was a stronger predictor of college-level English and math performance than were SAT, ACT, and ACCUPLACER scores,” the study’s summary said.

"Secondary and postsecondary stakeholders can use the findings to help identify students in need of support to be college-ready and to consider further conversation and additional research regarding whether and how to use high school grade point average as part of the placement process.”

The study takes place as higher education institutions in Alaska seek to reduce the number of high school grads that must take developmental education classes in college.

"Like other colleges and universities across the country, the University of Alaska, the state’s public higher education system, is reexamining its course placement policies, with the goal of lowering its developmental education placement rate,” the report said.

To arrive at its conclusions, the study looked at first-year University of Alaska students from fall 2008 to spring 2012.

It looked at data concerning students who placed in developmental education when first entering the university and "then examined the percentage that eventually enrolled in and passed a college English or math course over four years.”

One of the report’s most interesting findings is that "more than 60 percent of students who were placed in developmental courses but who instead enrolled directly in college English or math passed those college-level courses.”

"For students who enrolled directly in college-level courses, high school grade point average was a stronger predictor of performance in college English and math than were SAT, ACT, or ACCUPLACER scores.”

This is a particularly important finding because it means that college-and-career-ready standards as defined through standardized tests might be missing the mark.

Using its findings, the reports recommends that higher education institutions consider high school grade point averages in course placement going forward.

"These findings may motivate further conversation among college stakeholders and additional research on whether and how to consider measures such as high school grade point average as part of the placement process. Additional research might be modeled after research in California that uses school district data linked to college campus data to examine relationships between high school grade point average and college performance,” the report says.

Read the full report here.

Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

6/6/2016

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