Monday, August 18, 2014

Idaho's SAT Math Scores Improve in 2014

The results of the 2014 SAT Schoolday administration were released last week. This was the third annual administration of the SAT to juniors statewide. The State Department of Education coordinates the administration, and juniors are offered the opportunity to take the exam at no cost.

Juniors must take a college entrance exam prior to the end of the 11th grade year in order to graduate from high school. If they have taken the SAT, ACT, or the Compass exam prior to the Schoolday administration, or plan to take one of the three exams prior to the end of junior year, students are not required to sit for the Schoolday exam.


For the purposes of this post, we considered only high school where 75 or more juniors sat for the SAT Schoolday exam, and only those schools in which 80% of juniors took the Schoolday exam. For the purpose of evaluating growth from the 2013 exam, we used only schools that tested 80% of juniors in both years. High schools in which less than 80% of students took the 2014 SAT were Blackfoot, Bonners Ferry, Burley, Canyon Ridge (Twin Falls), Jerome, Post Falls, South Fremont, and Wood River (Blaine County).

Following is a scattergram in which the percentage of students scoring above 500 (the College Board standard for college readiness) is the y-axis variable, and the percentage of free/reduced students is the x-axis variable.

The top scoring “large” high schools in 2014 were (% and average score):


Almost 800 more students scored 500 or better in math on the 2014 Schoolday exam than did in 2013, a 4% gain. Though these are two different groups of juniors, there were almost 17,000 students in each tested group. The average scale score increased from 453 to 461.

We took a look at the high schools that made the most growth from 2013 to 2014. We eliminated the school that tested less than 80% of students in 2013 and/or in 2014. In addition to the schools listed as eliminated above, Kuna (76%), Payette (72%), and Weiser (73%) were eliminated from the comparison.

Here are the schools that made the most growth from 2013 to 2014:


Limited English students, especially refugee/immigrant students who had been in the United States for a relatively short time, struggled with the ISAT, a multiple choice test that assessed relatively low level skills in a multiple choice format. As you can imagine, these students have an even more difficult time on the SAT, and will have similar issues with the Smarter Balanced Assessment next spring.

For example, here are the scoring patterns for a native – speaking student scoring 660 on the SAT math test, and a Limited English student.

                                 Q’s correct                         Q’s missed                Q’s skipped              Scale Score

Native Speaker              46                                             4                                 4                             660

LEP immigrant student    9                                            17                                28                          310

Research on language learning among LEP students shows that “a period of 5-7 years was required, on average, for immigrant students to approach grade norms in academic aspects of English.” (Cummins). Further, a 1995 article by Virginia Collier indicates that “In our studies we have found that in U.S. schools where all instruction is given through the second language(English) nonnative speakers of English withno schooling in their first language takes seven to ten years or more to reach age and grade-level norms of their native-speaking peers.”

On the old ISAT, LEP students were exempted from the language and reading subtests for one year. For the SAT, students can take another exam (ACT or Compass), or have their scores exempted from a school’s totals during their first three years in a United States school.

So how do LEP students’ scores compare? On average, Boise District LEP students who took the SAT scored a composite of 904, compared with the district average of 1426 (excluding LEP students). In math, LEP students scored an average of 330, compared with the district average of 486 (excluding LEP students).

As noted in a previous post, Borah High School has the largest number of LEP students in the state, primarily because the district’s Bridge program for immigrant newcomers is housed at Borah. Fifty-four (54) LEP students took the SAT at Borah. Those students’ average math score was 338. Five (5) (9%) scored above 500 in math, 0 in reading, 0 in writing.

So, what happens when the LEP student scores are taken out of Borah’s percentage of students scoring 500 or above?

Borah High School – Percent 500 or above

                                          With LEP               Without LEP

Reading                                 34%                           39%

Math                                      36%                           41%

Writing                                  21%                           23%

Other districts have high percentages of Limited English Proficient students, though probably not to the level of Borah with its Bridge program. We don’t know the extent of the effect on SAT performance, since the number of LEP tested students is not released by the state.