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Validity of High-School Grades In Predicting Student Success Beyond the Freshman Year

Susan Notes: A study examined the fates of nearly 80,000 students who entered the University of California system and found that high-school grades are a better predictor of college success than SAT scores. So why doesn't anyone trust teacher grades? Why have we allowed the standardized testing industry to hijack the assessment of students?

by Saul Geiser and Maria Veronica Santelices

High-School Record vs. Standardized Tests as
Indicators of Four-Year College Outcomes

High-school grades are often viewed as an unreliable criterion for college admissions,
owing to differences in grading standards across high schools, while standardized tests
are seen as methodologically rigorous, providing a more uniform and valid yardstick for
assessing student ability and achievement. The present study challenges that
conventional view. The study finds that high-school grade point average (HSGPA) is
consistently the best predictor not only of freshman grades in college, the outcome
indicator most often employed in predictive-validity studies, but of four-year college
outcomes as well. A previous study, UC and the SAT (Geiser with Studley, 2003),
demonstrated that HSGPA in college-preparatory courses was the best predictor of
freshman grades for a sample of almost 80,000 students admitted to the University of
California. Because freshman grades provide only a short-term indicator of college
performance, the present study tracked four-year college outcomes, including
cumulative college grades and graduation, for the same sample in order to examine the
relative contribution of high-school record and standardized tests in predicting longerterm
college performance. Key findings are: (1) HSGPA is consistently the strongest
predictor of four-year college outcomes for all academic disciplines, campuses and
freshman cohorts in the UC sample; (2) surprisingly, the predictive weight associated
with HSGPA increases after the freshman year, accounting for a greater proportion of
variance in cumulative fourth-year than first-year college grades; and (3) as an
admissions criterion, HSGPA has less adverse impact than standardized tests on
disadvantaged and underrepresented minority students. The paper concludes with a
discussion of the implications of these findings for admissions policy and argues for
greater emphasis on the high-school record, and a corresponding de-emphasis on
standardized tests, in college admissions.

You can read the full study at the url below.

— Saul Geiser and Maria Veronica Santelices
Research & Occasional Paper Series: CSHE.6.07


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