Monday, February 3, 2014

The SAT and College Readiness

Where do Idaho's high schools currently stand in terms of college readiness? The SAT, paid for by the state of Idaho and administered annually to 11th graders across the state, provides some answers.

Several years ago, the Idaho State Department of Education set "cut" scores for the subtests of the SAT to indicate whether or not a student was deemed "college prepared". The College Board, parent organization for the SAT, recommends that a score of 500 on each of the Critical Reading, Math, and Writing subtests equates to preparedness in that area, and that a composite score of 1550 shows overall preparedness for college.

The SAT reports for Idaho school districts and high schools are here. We took those reports, added free/reduced lunch information, and created scattergrams for "large" high schools (tested more than 50 students) in the state.

Here's the math chart, for example:

The x-axis on this chart is the percentage of free/reduced students at the high school (we used 10th grade 2013 free/reduced, because 11th grade data were not available. The y-axis is percentage of 11th graders scoring above 500 on the SAT math subtest. We also included a best-fit line for the data. So, for example, Eagle High School, with about 15% free/reduced, had 46% of its juniors scoring above 500 on the SAT.

Note that there exists a substantial gap between the highest and lowest performing high schools. Renaissance, Meridian's magnet high school, and Boise High have over 60% of juniors scoring above 500 in math. Several high schools have 15% or fewer.

A factor not considered in this chart is the number of Limited English students at each high school. For example, Borah High School has the largest number of Limited English students in the state of Idaho, which naturally affects overall performance on an exam such as the SAT.

In February, 2013, Southern Idaho Superintendents recommended to the Governor's Task Force that the state require each high school and district to set goals for improving college readiness, based on their standing on each SAT subtest. We know where we stand in college readiness; the above chart illustrates the urgency of moving forward in preparing Idaho's students.

Here's a more detailed presentation about the SAT and the information it provides.