News Release

UTSA researcher studies key predictors for college retention

Peer-Reviewed Publication

University of Texas at San Antonio

(MARCH 17, 2021) - The current outbreak of COVID-19 has raised many questions about the value of consideration of standardized testing through the admissions process. One of the many Coronavirus cancellations included a growing number of universities to waive SAT and ACT scores as an admissions requirement for 2022 applicants.

With schools shifting their policy to making standardized "test-optional" and possibly permanently phasing out testing scores in the future as some college experts argue that standardized tests create barriers to students which could reduce their likelihood of acceptance.

A new study led by senior research scientist Paul Westrick from the College Board (ACT, Inc.), along with UTSA professor of management, Huy Le, Steve Robbins from the Educational Testing Service, Justin Radunzel ACT, Inc, and Frank Schmidt, professor emeritus of management and entrepreneurship at the University of Iowa shows that the most effective way to predict students' academic success and retention in a student first year of college relies heavily on test scores and grades combined together.

Based on a national representative sample of 189,612 students at 50 institutions, both ACT scores and high school grade point average are correlated to a first-year students' academic performance, the researchers made important contributions on academic persistence.

The study aims to examine the strength of correlation between ACT Composite scores, school grades, and socioeconomic status within the second- and third-year academic performance.

"We believe this research provides important evidence supporting the usefulness of high school GPA and standardized tests as predictors of student successes in colleges and refuting the misconception that the tests are just a proxy for students' socio-economic status," said Le.

The researchers provided valuable insight to determine the factors that best predict the effectiveness and reliability of continuing to use the practice of standardized tests as a measure of student success and whether or not they will persist in college.

"We are hopeful the findings of the study will help colleges in determining factors to be included for making admission decisions," Le added.

The researchers concluded that grades do not only measure academic characteristics but nonacademic characteristics as well. The findings demonstrate that test scores measure cognitive characteristics, while grades measure a combination of characteristics. Including attendance, participation and more.

The research has yielded many studies that have demonstrated the usefulness and validity of the standardized testing for the admission process.


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