Research Finds that High School GPAs Are Stronger Predictors of College Graduation than ACT Scores:
Students’ high school grade point averages are five times stronger than their ACT scores at predicting college graduation, according to a new study published today in Educational Researcher, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association [High School GPAs and ACT Scores as Predictors of College Completion: Examining Assumptions About Consistency Across High Schools].
The authors of the new study, Elaine M. Allensworth and Kallie Clark, both of the University of Chicago, also found that the predictive power of GPAs is consistent across high schools. The relationship between ACT scores and college graduation depends on which high school a student attends; at many high schools there is no connection between students’ ACT scores and eventual college graduation.
“It was surprising not only to see that there was no relationship between ACT scores and college graduation at some high schools, but also to see that at many high schools the relationship was negative among students with the highest test scores,” said Allensworth, who is the director of the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research.
Across all high schools in the study, each incremental increase in GPA is associated with an increase in the odds of graduating college. The chance of graduating from college ranges from 20 percent for students with high school GPAs under 1.5 to about 80 percent for those with GPAs of 3.75 or higher, after controlling for student backgrounds and college characteristics.
“While people often think the value of GPAs is inconsistent across high schools, and that standardized test scores, like the ACT, are neutral indicators of college readiness because they are taken by everyone under the same conditions, our findings indicate otherwise,” Allensworth said. “The bottom line is that high school grades are powerful tools for gauging students’ readiness for college, regardless of which high school a student attends, while ACT scores are not.”
According to the authors, their study confirms prior research that finds high school GPAs are more predictive than SAT and ACT scores of college freshman GPA and college graduation. This study is the first to explicitly test whether standardized assessments are comparable across high schools as measures of college readiness.
Inside Higher Ed, Study: Grades Are 5 Times Stronger Than ACT Scores