Date of Award

Spring 1998

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Urban Services - Urban Education

Committee Director

Maurice R. Berube

Committee Member

Noma B. Anderson

Committee Member

James A. Calliotte

Committee Member

Rebecca S. Bowers

Committee Member

Donna B. Evans


In Moores and Klas' (1989) definitive study on college student retention, postsecondary administrators ranked the maintenance of student enrollment second in importance on a list of twenty critical issues facing higher education. Of particular relevance to college administrators has been the retention and graduation of African-American college students (D. B. Hawkins, 1994; Western Reserve, 1991).

Researchers, in considering the overall problem of student attrition, particularly, among African-Americans, have explored such questions as these: Which students are dropping out (Sherman, Giles and Green, 1994; Robinson, 1992)? Why do they discontinue their studies (Austin, 1982; Bohr et al., 1995; Kraft, 1992; Tinto, 1975)? Why is the problem especially serious among African-American students (Ball, 1992; Carris, 1995; Miller, 1990)? Are the traditional prediction and placement measures failing to accurately identify those entering freshmen students with the potential to succeed and those who may require intervention to succeed (Bridgeman & Wendler, 1991; Cole, 1987; Wambach & Brothern, 1989)? If so, are there ways to improve on the process? Would using an alternative or supplementary measure more effectively predict which college students are likely to succeed and which students are likely to succeed in college with intervention?

The majority of colleges utilize prediction measures such as the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT), the American College Testing Program (ACT) and high school grade point average (HGPA); and, placement measures such as the Nelson Denny Reading Test, the Degrees of Reading Power (DRP) test and writing essays to determine the potential for academic success among freshmen entrants (Lederman et al., 1986; N. V. Wood, 1989).

An investigation of the effectiveness of using an alternative language-based measure (that assesses a freshman's speaking, listening, reading and writing skills), the Test of Adolescent and Adult Language (TOAL-3), for predicting academic success and assuring a fairer evaluation process and greater precision in the identification and placement of entering freshmen was the focus of this proposed study. Interestingly, colleges have traditionally ignored a student's level of communication competence (e.g., speaking, listening, reading and writing) in predicting academic achievement (Rubin & Graham, 1988). The academic performance of African-American freshmen constituted a sub-theme, suggested by the higher dropout rates found among this population (Minorities in Higher Education, 1994).

This study found that there was no statistically significant difference in the ability of the TOAL-3, when compared to the SAT, DRP and WSPT, to predict first semester grade point average (FGPA) based on language competency, among entering freshmen students in general. However, there was a statistically significant difference between the TOAL-3 and the WSPT in identifying entering freshmen students as either Predicted Success (PS) or Potential Difficulty (PD). There was a statistically significant difference between the TOAL-3 and the SAT as a function of race and gender in identifying freshmen students as either Predicted Success (PS) or Potential Difficulty (PD). There was also a statistically significant difference between the TOAL-3 and the WSPT, in forecasting which freshmen students identified as Predicted Success (PS) would achieve the criterion variable as a function of gender. However, because of the small sample size, caution should be utilized in interpreting these findings.


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