Determining whether incoming college students need remedial courses in math or English before starting their regular classes may be as simple as looking at their high-school grades. A new study published by the Institute of Education Sciences’ National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance showed grade-point average was a better indicator of future academic success than standardized exams such as the SAT, ACT, or Accuplacer.
More than half of first-year students are steered to remedial math courses, while roughly a third have to undertake remedial English, which adds to their costs and often delays graduation. The study results determined some of these students didn’t need remedial work after all, while others who would have benefited from remedial classes weren’t required to take them.
In particular, the study revealed high-school grades were a fairly accurate predictor of success for students who enrolled in college within a year of graduating from a secondary school, even if the students scored at a higher or lower level on standardized exams. Many higher-education schools tend to give more weight to exam scores than school grades.
However, for college students who enrolled more than a year after finishing high school, the story was a little different. Secondary grades still served as a reliable predictor for English courses, but the standardized exams were better at foretelling success in math. The study report didn’t offer any rationale for the discrepancy.
Results of the study, conducted with University of Alaska students, were consistent with a similar study done in 2014 with students attending California community colleges.