College Entrance Exam ACT’s Validity Questioned

A new study has found that two of the four main parts of the ACT — science and reading — have “little or no” ability to help colleges predict whether applicants will succeed.

The analysis also found that the other two parts — English and mathematics — are “highly predictive” of college success. But because most colleges rely on the composite ACT score, rather than individual subject scores, the value of the entire exam is questioned by the study.

“By introducing noise that obscures the predictive validity of the ACT exam, the reading and science tests cause students to be inefficiently matched to schools, admitted to schools that may be too demanding — or too easy — for their levels of ability,” says the paper released Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research (abstract available here).

ACT officials said that they were still studying the paper, of which they were unaware until Monday. But they defended the value of all parts of the test.

The authors of the paper are Eric P. Bettinger, associate professor of education at Stanford University; Brent J. Evans, a doctoral student in higher education at Stanford; and Devin G. Pope, an assistant professor at the business school of the University of Chicago. At a time when the ACT has grown in popularity such that it has roughly equal market share to the SAT’s, the authors write that misuse of ACT data could hinder efforts to raise college completion rates.

The research is based on a database with information about every student who enrolled at a four-year public university in Ohio in 1999. The authors obtained information about high school and college grades — and found their results consistent for students of different skill levels and for those who enrolled in colleges with different levels of difficulty in winning admission. (For comparative purposes, the authors also used data on students who enrolled in a private Western institution, Brigham Young University, and found the same patterns.)

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America’s Best High Schools

These are challenging times for secondary education. Cash-strapped school districts are cutting back; No Child Left Behind mandates test results; parents and students stress unabated. NEWSWEEK, which has been ranking the top public high schools in America for more than a decade, revamped its methodology this year in hopes of highlighting solutions. We enlisted a panel of experts—Wendy Kopp of Teach For America, Tom Vander Ark of Open Education Solutions (formerly executive director for education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), and Linda Darling-Hammond, Stanford professor of education and founder of the School Redesign Network—to develop a yardstick that fully reflects a school’s success turning out college-ready (and life-ready) students. To this end, each school’s score is comprised of six components: graduation rate (25%), college matriculation rate (25%), AP tests taken per graduate (25%), average SAT/ACT scores (10%), average AP/IB/AICE scores (10%), and AP courses offered (5%). (For more information on how these rankings were tabulated, see ourFull Methodology.)

Read more and see where your local high schools rank.

Posted in Data/Research, Secondary (9-12), Students. Comments Off on America’s Best High Schools