Can one test determine if a student will sink or swim at college?
In his recent state of the state address, Gov. Rick Snyder highlighted a study that said 17 percent of high school students fall into the category of being “college ready,” as based upon ACT scores.
College readiness is determined by comparing ACT scores in each subject to students’ grades in freshmen level college courses.
For example, if a student meets or exceeds the benchmark score on the math portion of the ACT, he or she has a 50 percent chance of receiving a “B” in the college course.
As scores dwindle, so does the individual’s rate of success.
But without ACT scores, universities have few benchmarks they can judge student academic success against.
“The scores are statistically relevant to how they will do once they get here,” said Rachel Florence-Spaetzel, director of orientation programs.
Students need a minimum ACT score of 18 and at least a 2.5 high school GPA for admittance to SVSU.
However, Nic Taylor, associate director of admissions, said that success isn’t all about academic performance.
He said the University looks to admit well-rounded individuals who will take advantage of what the University has to offer. Extracurricular activities in high school are a strong indicator that students will get involved at college.
Taylor also said there is a possibility that the ACT could inadequately represent how students will perform during college.
“ACT measures what you know, but not what you’re willing to do with it,” Taylor said.
He explained that some individuals who get high scores are not willing to apply themselves.
On the other hand, those with poor scores may work hard and succeed.
Taylor said that he believes in all students who are admitted, whether they fall into Snyder’s “college ready” category or not.
“I wouldn’t admit someone here that I didn’t think would be successful,” he said.
Last year’s freshmen had an average ACT score of 22 and GPA of 3.2.
Taylor said the University provides students with all the tools needed to thrive, such as the writing center, math and physics resource center, and counseling.
Basic skills courses are another way to steer students toward success.
The university uses ACT sub scores to determine if students must take basic skills classes prior to beginning general education requirements.
For example, scores below 21 on the math section of the ACT place students in a 080 or 082 level math class.
About 51 percent of freshmen in Fall 2011 were placed in Math 081 or 082.
Florence-Spaetzel said that she urges students to be optimistic about basic skills classes and know they aren’t alone.
She said students are placed in these courses to get them up to par academically, not so the University can have more of their money.
“We try to make sure nobody’s there that doesn’t really need to be,” Florence-Spaetzel said.
The question that remains is whether high schools could do more to better prepare students for college.
Taylor said he doesn’t think so.
“I think schools are doing as much as they can with what they have,” he said.
Florence-Spaetzel said she had a similar opinion.
“There’s always more that can be done, but it’s whether the resources are there, that’s the problem,” she said.
Taylor said once students have taken the ACT, they have a new opportunity with their education.
“Your ACT score is behind you now,” Taylor said. “Now the playing field is level.”