Study: Test scores not best measure of outcomes

Staff Writer

Attendance and grade point average are the best indicators of whether middle school students will do well in high school and not standardized test scores, according to a report from the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR).

In the report, “Looking forward to High School and College: Middle Grade Indicators of Readiness in Chicago Public Schools,” CCSR used data provided by Chicago Public Schools for the entire school district between 2009-2010 school year. The report determined that attendance and grade point average (GPA) were better indicators of whether students would start 9th grade on track even more than test scores or background characteristics such as race and neighborhood poverty levels.

High school offers more freedom but it also requires more responsibility,” said Paul Moore, researcher at CCSR, who presented the 2014 report Wednesday night at the February Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Action Council (HP-K CAC) meeting.

Moore said students who are missing more than 10 percent of the school year or receiving Fs in the middle grades, which the report identified as 5th to 8th grades, are at very high risk of being off-track for graduation in the 9th grade and eventually dropping out of school.

It can be hard to identify which students are at risk of falling off track once they enter high school, Moore said. Only students whose 8th grade GPA is a 3.0 or higher and attend school at least 95 percent of the time are at very low risk of being off-track by the end of 9th grade.

According to the report, in Chicago and other parts of the country, only students who graduate high school with at least a 3.0 GPA have a 50/50 chance of earning a college diploma in six years. ACT scores are less predictive of college graduation than students’ high GPAs and higher attendance rates are associated with improved likelihoods of earning As and Bs in 9th grade for students with 8th grade GPAs above 3.0.

“High school selection is also an important factor in which kids stay on track in high school,” Moore said. “These may not be the schools with the highest average ACT test scores.”

Moore said middle school students would benefit from attending schools that provide staff and resources to help transitioning students keep their grades and attendance rates up and have high graduation rates.

Moore said CPS did not provide CCSR with the data on which schools were more effective.

After inquiry from CAC members, Moore also said that middle schools that are separated from grammar schools make the transition into high school a little smoother than when a student goes from grammar school into high school.

“Given current practices grades and attendance are low hanging fruit,” Moore said when challenged by the educators at the meeting about the difficulties of improving the attendance of student. “It’s not easy by any means but you could do more for test scores when you work on attendance and GPA.