ACT study finds grade inflation in high school GPAs over the past decade


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Dive Temporary:

  • A new report from ACT finds proof of grade inflation in highschool seniors’ grade level averages between 2010 and 2021, based mostly on analyses of highschool GPAs and ACT composite scores of greater than 4.3 million college students from 4,783 faculties.
  • On common, highschool GPAs elevated 0.19 grade factors, from 3.17 in 2010 to three.36 in 2021. The three-year interval between 2018 and 2021 noticed extra grade inflation than within the previous eight years, rising by 0.1 grade factors, in response to the report, which has drawn criticism from advocates of upper schooling’s test-optional motion.
  • Although GPAs elevated, common ACT composite scores continued to say no, in 2021 reaching the bottom common rating of the previous decade, the report discovered. 

Dive Perception:

Based mostly on its findings, ACT recommends holistic approaches in school admissions that embody each highschool GPA and a standardized analysis — such because the standardized exams offered by ACT and its rival, the Faculty Board’s SAT.

“What we now know is that grade inflation is actual. It’s systemic, and it weakens the worth of pupil transcripts as a measure of what college students know and are in a position to do,” ACT CEO Janet Godwin advised a information briefing Friday. 

A serious critic of standardized testing took situation with the ACT report. Bob Schaeffer is government director of FairTest, a company that advocates for restricted use of standardized exams. He stated in an e-mail that the ACT report units up a straw man to argue in opposition to test-optional and test-blind admissions insurance policies, which have grown throughout the pandemic.

Nobody is arguing that grade inflation would not exist, and it should not be a shock that grading rigor modified rapidly on the identical time faculties added flexibility for college students throughout the pandemic’s disruptions, Schaeffer stated. However faculties do not use highschool GPA as their sole admissions issue — additionally they use school readiness measures just like the coursework a pupil takes, letters of advice they submit and essays they write. Additional, independent research has proven GPA is a greater indicator of faculty commencement charges than standardized check scores, he stated.

The research failed to look at rating inflation on the ACT, Schaeffer stated. However the organization’s own research exhibits teaching can increase ACT check scores, he stated.

“ACT’s weak arguments in yet one more self-serving report ignore the real-world expertise of many faculties with ACT/SAT-optional and test-blind insurance policies demonstrating will increase in pupil physique range with none loss in educational high quality,” Schaeffer stated.

Rising grade level averages do not need to be seen as a constructive or unfavorable, Timothy Quinn, chief educational officer of Miss Porter’s Faculty, a women boarding faculty in Connecticut, and the creator of “On Grades and Grading,” told EdSurge. They’ll as a substitute be considered as an indicator of adjusting schooling practices.

Knowledge and analysis out there earlier than ACT’s new research have steered highschool grades and commencement charges could also be inflated.

In line with the Nationwide Evaluation of Academic Progress released in March, highschool graduates earned a median 3.11 GPA in 2019, up from 3.00 in 2009 and a pair of.68 in 1990. Whereas common GPAs, credit attained and the variety of accomplished STEM programs have risen inside a decade, the nationwide common rating on the Twelfth-grade math portion of NAEP has declined.

In 2015, NPR conducted a months-long investigation into climbing highschool commencement charges, discovering varied districts and states mislabeled college students or supplied simpler paths to earn a diploma. Some faculties, nonetheless, are giving college students long-term help to legitimately elevate commencement charges, NPR experiences.

A new study by the Brookings Institution additionally checked out knowledge from 25 states to know COVID-19’s impression on highschool commencement and school entry charges. It discovered highschool commencement charges remained regular all through the pandemic, however there was a 16% decline amongst college students instantly beginning at two-year faculties and a 6% dip in college students going to four-year faculties.

Throughout the pandemic, some lecturers have adjusted their grading approaches by permitting college students to revise work or lengthen deadlines. Others took on a “do no hurt” mindset, so college students aren’t penalized for low grades given circumstances outdoors their management, like a scarcity of web entry or the necessity to look after sick relations.

The brand new ACT research was restricted to public faculties matched to the Nationwide Heart for Schooling Statistics’ Widespread Core of Knowledge, an annual database of all public elementary and secondary faculties and districts. 

The ACT’s advice to proceed counting on an goal metric for faculty admissions additionally comes as extra faculties are transferring to test-optional or test-blind admissions.

When the University of California System decided in November to now not use standardized check scores for undergraduate admissions, ACT disagreed with arguments that the transfer would create better fairness and entry for highschool college students.

ACT told K-12 Dive then that with out long-standing and goal testing, there can be a chance for extra subjectivity and uncertainty within the admissions course of.  

UC’s resolution, ACT stated, “is prone to worsen entrenched inequities and dim the prospects for college students from underrepresented populations, in California and past, to attend faculties within the UC System.”

But research has found test-optional insurance policies result in modest beneficial properties in pupil physique range. The UC System admitted its most numerous undergraduate class ever in fall 2021, which UC President Michael Drake drew consideration to in November.

Elsewhere, data shows college students admitted to the College of Missouri for fall 2021 who didn’t submit admissions check scores earned barely decrease GPAs of their first semester than college students who did submit scores. However the two teams posted related retention charges.

Larger Ed Dive Senior Editor Rick Seltzer contributed to this temporary.


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