Academic Achievement & Academic Behaviors: Both Matter

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Academic achievement is an essential factor in college and career readiness, but it’s not the only one. Over the past 10 years, ACT research on student success has advanced to include motivation, social engagement, and self-regulation—the behavioral domains essential for success across the school and work continuum.

Combining measures of academic achievement and behavior provides a more holistic picture of students, including their likelihood of enrolling in college following high school graduation. This information, available in middle school, allows for early identification of and intervention with students who may be less likely to complete high school and go to college.

Across all ACT Explore Benchmark attainment levels, students with higher ACT Engage Graduation Index scores (which are based on a combination of ACT Engage scale scores and other self-reported student information) enrolled in a postsecondary institution after high school at substantially higher rates than students with lower ACT Engage Graduation Index scores.

First-Year College Enrollment Rates by 8th Grade ACT Explore Benchmarks and ACT Engage® Graduation Index Level*

Number of Benchmarks MetLow Graduation IndexModerate Graduation
Index
High Graduation Index
Zero13%27%49%
1 or 220%46%64%
3 or 431%69%83%

* Based on N = 3,356 8th graders in 24 middle schools across the country who took ACT Explore and ACT Engage grades 6–9. These data do not reflect the 2013 ACT-tested high school graduate cohort.





Motivation: Personal characteristics that help students to succeed academically by focusing and maintaining energies on goal-directed activities. Behaviors in this domain are important for maintaining the level of effort required to achieve good grades.


Mean High School GPA by Motivation Score*

Motivation ScoreMean High School GPA
1–91.8
10–191.8
20–292.1
30–392.2
40–492.4
50–592.5
60–692.7
70–792.7
80–892.9
90–993.2

* Based on N = 3,949 students who took ACT Engage grades 6–9. These data do not reflect the 2013 ACT-tested high school graduate cohort.




Social Engagement: Interpersonal factors that influence students’ successful integration into their environment. Behaviors in this domain are related to participation and engagement in social and community activities, such as extracurricular activities.


Students Reporting Two or More Extracurricular Activities in High School by Social Engagement Score**

Social Engagement ScorePercent Reporting Two or More Activities
1–939%
10–1944%
20–2943%
30–3946%
40–4951%
50–5958%
60–6965%
70–7967%
80–8971%
90–9980%

** Based on N = 1,635 students who took ACT Engage grades 6–9. These data do not reflect the 2013 ACT-tested high school graduate cohort.




Self-Regulation: The thinking processes and emotional responses of students that govern how well they monitor, regulate, and control their behavior related to school and learning. Behaviors in this domain are important for following rules and maintaining good conduct.


Average Number of Disciplinary Events by Self-Regulation Score***

Self-Regulation ScoreMean Disciplinary Events
1–92.9
10–192.3
20–292.0
30–391.6
40–491.2
50–590.9
60–690.7
70–790.5
80–890.4
90–990.3

*** Based on N = 16,234 students who took ACT Engage grades 6–9. These data do not reflect the 2013 ACT-tested high school graduate cohort.

ACT Engage Grades 6–9 is a self-report assessment used to measure the academic behaviors noted above and determine students’ personal strengths and weaknesses.

More information about ACT Engage.

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