Tuesday, September 17, 2019


Idaho's 2019 School Day SAT results were released in late June, and we were able to procure statewide results by high school and district soon thereafter. The vast majority of Idaho's 11th graders take the SAT on a given day in April each year. Every Idaho student is required to have taken a college entrance exam in order to graduate.

What follows in this post is an analysis of the results, considering free/reduced lunch percentages as one axis of our SAT comparison, and scale scores for math and ERW as the other.

Here are some important factors to consider as you look at the results:

1) Year over year comparisons of scores on the SAT are often made. It's important to understand that those comparisons are made among different groups of students - each is a distinct group of 11th graders. 

2) Though most students take the SAT on the School Day exam date, some do not. If they have already taken or plan to take another exam such as the ACT, they do not have to take the School Day exam. So, even though percentages of students taking the exam are high, they may vary from school to school and from year to year. And a few schools prefer the ACT and de-emphasize the School Day SAT. That's why we check junior class enrollment and exams given each year, and leave out of the comparison schools that test fewer than 90% of their juniors.

3) It's tempting to look at very high scores for small schools, pronounce their performance as "greatly improved", and expound on what they did last year to improve their performance, even though the "growth" could be due to one or two high-scoring students, and scores will likely decline the next year because those students are not taking the test. We usually limit our comparison to schools with 75 or more juniors tested. 

Idaho Ed News did a story this year about Kootenai High School's remarkable SAT scores, which improved by almost 150 points over last year. Problem is, the school tested only 12 students this year and 9 the year before. And, in fact, scores at Kootenai High declined substantially (by almost 80 points) from 2017 to 2018, before the big increase.

Kootenai most assuredly does an awesome job with preparing its kids for college. But IEN has done this before in a 2014 story of Kootenai's progress on the SAT.

The Scores

SAT scores, along with SBAC, are notoriously highly correlated with poverty. So the higher a school's poverty level, as measured by free/reduced lunch percentages, the lower the SAT scores, typically. What we look for are scores that are higher than might be expected. 

As noted above, we use only scores from high schools that tested 75 students, AND tested 90% or more of juniors enrolled at the school. So, here are the scores, in context:


Boise, Timberline, Madison, McCall - these are schools that outperform SAT expectations each year, even considering their demographics. It's not surprising, though, considering that these schools lead the state in Advanced Placement (a College Board product, as is the SAT) exam participants each year, along with Century of Pocatello. On the other hand, Marsh Valley (a smaller district near Poky), Fruitland, Twin Falls, and Skyview had higher scores than predicted, as well. And each year, Caldwell's scores are surprising. considering the demographics of the high school.


In SAT Math, it;s almost the same story. But note that Timberlake (a northern Idaho high school in Spirit Lake), Borah, and Coeur d'Alene have higher scores than we might predict. And Caldwell's math SAT scores, considering the expectations and their demographics, might just be the best in the state.