Posted by: Gregory Linton | 11/27/2020

New study supports the use of high school GPAs as predictors of college completion

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Elaine M. Allensworth and Kallie Clark (2020) recently published an article titled “High school GPAs and ACT scores as predictors of college completion: Examining assumptions about consistency across high schools” in Educational Researcher, 20(10), pp. 1-14. Their study adds to the abundant research over the last decade that has shown that high school GPAs are stronger predictors of college outcomes than standardized test scores.

Here are reasons why grades are considered better predictors of college success:

  • They are based on a wide-ranging array of tasks.
  • They indicate a student’s effort, persistence, and performance over a period of years.
  • They capture academic knowledge, skills, behaviors, and effort.
  • They incorporate the judgment of many different teachers across many different subjects.

In contrast, standardized tests assess students on a narrow range of skills and on only a subset of what they learn in subjects such as English and math. Also, they provide results from only one type of condition (a timed test), a condition that can be affected by the test-taker’s physical and mental state at the time of the test.

Allensworth and Clark’s research, conducted in the Chicago Public Schools, concluded that “HSGPAs perform in a strong and consistent way across high schools as measures of college readiness, whereas ACT scores do not” (p. 12). They argue that student’s efforts to improve their ACT scores will not translate into greater success in college, whereas their efforts to improve their GPAs will also improve their readiness for college.

Because standardized test scores are strongly linked to the student’s family income, the mother’s education level, and race, more and more colleges and universities no longer require submission of ACT or SAT scores. The National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest) currently lists more than 1,070 colleges and universities that do not use the ACT or SAT to admit substantial numbers of bachelor-degree applicants.


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