Another area that the book examines with its database is the relative predictive value of grades and standardized tests like the SAT and ACT on predicting college graduation rates. The overall conclusion of the section is that high school grades have more predictive value than do standardized tests, and that the additional predictive value from tests is quite small (although slightly greater at the most competitive institutions).I've added emphasis for the key point: it's way too easy to overvalue the tests and undervalue the high school work as predictors of who's likely to succeed in college.
The finding could be significant for several reasons. First the authors intentionally go to a new measure of testing validity -- graduation rates -- rather than focusing on the measure used by the College Board for predictive validity of the SAT, which is first-year grades. Bowen said that since the goal should be graduation (and on time graduation), testing should be measured in that way.
While the limited value they find for testing might be seen as an anti-testing stance, the authors are careful not to go there. They say that they don't want to focus on "to test or not to test" but on how testing could or should be used. Generally, the book offers praise for the SAT II (the subject tests) and the Advanced Placement tests, noting that both of these tests are based on what students actually learn in academic areas.
Bowen said that "we're not anti-testers," but that colleges -- especially those that aren't at the most competitive levels -- need to "think about weighting" so that it's clear that "if you have done well in high school, but not on the SAT," you can enroll, he said
While this finding is based on graduation rates, similar conclusions based on early college grades are pretty much old-hat. Indeed, when our newest Supreme Court Justice claimed that affirmative action got her into Princeton, I thought she was likely wrong. Valedictorians are a good bet even if their scores aren't stellar, and the tenacity to get there from a housing project was a further indication of readiness to go the distance.
In Kentucky's push to college readiness, I'm glad SB 1 has us moving to curriculum standards and tests linked to those standards, rather than merely assuming that existing tests measure what we need.