A new study of students enrolled in the University of Alaska system found that high school grade point average (GPA) was a better predictor of students’ success in college-level courses than standardized college entrance exams.
The Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northwest study examined developmental (remedial) education placement rates and predictors of academic performance among first-time students who enrolled in the University of Alaska System between fall 2008 and spring 2012.
Among students who enrolled directly in college-level courses, the report found that high school GPA had a more positive and significant relationship with students’ college course success than scores on standardized exams, such as the SAT, ACT, or ACCUPLACER. For instance, a one point increase in high school GPA (e.g., 2.0 to 3.0) increased a student’s likelihood of earning a C or higher by 25-29 percentage points in college English and 27-33 percentage points in college math.
Among the report’s other findings:
• Developmental education placement rates among first-time students were higher in math than in English. Developmental math placement rates increased as the time between students’ exiting high school and entering college increased;
• Among bachelor’s degree students, developmental placement rates were highest for Alaska Native students from rural areas of the state (in English) and Black students from urban areas (in math); and
• Among bachelor’s degree students who enrolled in developmental education, 47 percent eventually passed college English and 23 percent eventually passed college math.
The study results provide motivation for further conversation and additional research on the role high school grade point average should play in measuring readiness for college-level coursework.