The Redefining Ready! campaign has compiled an extensive body of research from highly-regarded institutions that support multiple measure readiness indicators. As our campaign gains momentum, we will continue collecting additional research to support this important cause.
If you or your organization has conducted research that supports using multiple measurements to assess college, career and life readiness, please email it to us at RedefiningReady@aasa.org. Emails should include the subject Redefining Ready Research, a short description of the content, the author of the research, website links or PDF attachments and your contact information.
This webpage will serve as a depository of research from Redefining Ready! supporters across the nation.
Measuring Academic Performance: The Case for Focusing on Grades
Despite all the attention to standardized tests, a growing body of research shows that achievement test scores are not strong predictors of whether students will graduate from high school or college. Research on early indicators of high school performance finds that passing courses and GPA in the middle grades and even earlier in elementary school are among the strongest predictors of high school outcomes (Kurlaender, Reardon, & Jackson, 2008; Neild & Balfanz, 2001; Zau & Betts, 2008). Likewise, high school grades are stronger and more consistent predictors of college persistence and graduation than college entrance examination scores or high school course taking (Geiser & Santelices, 2007; Roderick, Nagaoka, & Allensworth, 2006). In a study using data from the University of California, Geiser and Santelices (2007) found that high school grades were a stronger predictor of both college GPA and likelihood of college graduation than students’ SAT scores, class rank, and family background.
In Crossing the Finish Line, Bowen, Chingos, & McPherson (2009) also found that high school grades were much better predictors of college graduation than ACT or SAT scores. Like others with similar findings, Bowen and colleagues speculate that, beyond measuring content mastery, grades “reveal qualities of motivation and perseverance—as well as the presence of good study habits and time management skills” and “often reflect the ability to accept criticism and benefit from it and the capacity to take a reasonably good piece of one’s work and reject it as not good enough” (p. 124). Ultimately it is these qualities, more so than content knowledge, that signal which students are likely to excel in their studies and persevere in their schooling. Furthermore, it is not just course grades and educational attainment that are better predicted by grades than by tested performance. Miller (1998) found that high school grades had strong, significant relationships with earnings nine years after high school, for both men and women, even after controlling for educational attainment and school effects. Earnings were higher by about 20 percent for each GPA point earned in high school (As versus Bs; Bs versus Cs; Cs versus Ds). Hauser and Palloni (2011) found that students’ class rank (as determined by their grades) accounted for all of the relationship between IQ and length of life, and suggested this was due to having established responsible patterns of behavior during adolescence.
These findings make sense. Students who come to class and complete their work are likely to have developed the kind of work habits they will need in college as well as in the workforce. Students who struggle with self-discipline or productivity in high school will likely find the challenges of college overwhelming, regardless of their intellectual ability or content knowledge. The finding that course grades matter over and above achievement test scores suggests that grades do indeed capture something important about students that test scores do not.