Can we all just hold hands and shout “DUHHH!!!!” together? NPR reports on a new study this morning:
Today, some 800 of the roughly 3,000 four-year colleges and universities in America make SAT or ACT submissions optional. But before a new study released Tuesday, no one had taken a hard, broad look at just how students who take advantage of “test-optional” policies are doing: how, for example, their grades and graduation rates stack up next to their counterparts who submitted their test results to admissions offices.
. . . . . .
[Former Bates College Deanof Admissions William] Hiss’ study, “Defining Promise: Optional Standardized Testing Policies in American College and University Admissions,” examined data from nearly three dozen “test-optional” U.S. schools, ranging from small liberal arts schools to large public universities, over several years.
Hiss found that there was virtually no difference in grades and graduation rates between test “submitters” and “non-submitters.” Just 0.05 percent of a GPA point separated the students who submitted their scores to admissions offices and those who did not. And college graduation rates for “non-submitters” were just 0.6 percent lower than those students who submitted their test scores.
How now? It turns out that “high school grades matter–a lot:”
For both those students who submitted their test results to their colleges and those who did not, high school grades were the best predictor of a student’s success in college. And kids who had low or modest test scores, but good high school grades, did better in college than those with good scores but modest grades.
Hiss says it’s probably not so surprising that a pattern of hard work, discipline and curiosity in high school shows up “as highly predictive, in contrast to what they do in three or four hours on a particular Saturday morning in a testing room.”
I can’t find an actual link to the study–it looks like the website that NPR links to needs to be updated. However, those of us who question the stripping and de-funding of teachers’ salaries in favor of spending money on high-stakes testing at the K-12 level should consider the ways in which the existence of the SAT and the ACT helped pave the way for high-stakes testing at lower grade levels. Should it surprise anyone who works in education that past good grades–or three or four years of good grades, as William Hiss says–are more predictive of future good grades than any other measure?
I wasn’t an ACT or SAT resistor. I took the PSAT and the SAT in high school, and the GREs in college. I was even a National Merit Scholar finalist, and won thousands of dollars for college as a result. I know my way around a standardized test. But this study vindicates the work that teachers and students do over time to prepare for college. Should we really be surprised to learn that butts in the seats and working for four years yields more useful predictive data than prep classes, cramming software, and one or two Saturday mornings in a student’s junior year of high school?
Maybe my embrace of this report is because I was a good-grades getter who never believed in the “unheralded genius” who “tested well” but his grades were mediocre to terrible. Not that I didn’t believe he existed–and he is almost always a he, isn’t he? I just didn’t believe that he was all that smart, just undisciplined and a f^(k-up. I’m not saying that absolutely everything about school is entirely necessary for future college success, but K-12 education is essentially a thirteen year-long marshmallow test. Not everyone’s high school background is the same, but those who prioritize good grades will likely figure out a way to do so in college.
My father is a retired HR executive, and he spent much of his career hiring and firing people. Not a philosophical man, he was interested in real-world results. When I was going to college, I asked him if he ever considered a job applicant’s college or high school GPAs, and he responded “absolutely. Grades don’t necessarily tell you everything about what someone has learned, but they certainly tell you how hard that person is willing to work.” That’s my experience in nearly twenty years as a teacher. Students who get good grades make getting good grades a priority and they work harder at them.
What if they gave a test on Saturday morning and no one showed up?