High School GPAs Don't Always Predict Students' College Success

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), October 3, 2004 | Go to article overview
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High School GPAs Don't Always Predict Students' College Success


Byline: Rose Rennekamp

In Lake Wobegon, the mythical Minnesota town created by storyteller Garrison Keillor, all children are "above average."

If you look at the grade point average of U.S. high school students over time, you'll notice that scores have been gradually creeping upward, like ivy on an old school administration building.

More students than ever are receiving grades that indicate they are "above average."

Parents in Lake Wobegon might be proud, but they'd probably be shocked if their "above average" student went off to college and struggled to succeed.

Wouldn't you think that a student with a high school GPA over 3.0 would be ready to tackle college-level courses? Unfortunately, that isn't necessarily the case.

ACT scores for the class of 2004 show students who had a high school GPA between a 3.0 and a 3.49 scored lower than the national average on the ACT Assessment, suggesting that these students may struggle in their first year of college.

The culprit? Grade inflation.

ACT research shows that between 1991 and 2003, the average high school GPA went up more than 6 percent. But when you look at a more objective barometer - ACT scores - they didn't indicate a similar increase in academic achievement.

Grade inflation can result in a tough reality check for students when they get to college. A man I know successfully hid a learning disorder throughout high school. In fact, he graduated in the top one-third of his class, most likely because he is a natural salesman and was able to sell his teachers on the idea that he "deserved" a good grade because he worked hard and turned his homework in on time.

But when he got to college and tried to get through a math class, he struggled. Even after two attempts in the remedial class, he got so frustrated that he dropped out.

What can students and parents do to make sure they are prepared for college? The best thing for students to do is take the toughest college prep course schedule available at their high school and study hard in classes.

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