The SAT Report on College and Career Readiness: 2012

Two main takeaways emerge from this latest College Board report on the most recent SAT scores: 1) Participation rates are at an all-time high; and 2) as more adolescents sit for the three-hour exam, average scores decline. First, a bit about participation rates: This past spring, roughly 1.66 million students took the SAT, about 52 percent of the Class of 2012 and 6 percent more than in 2008. Of that number, 45 percent were minority students (up from 38 percent in 2008). Twenty-eight percent reported that English was not their exclusive first language (up four percentage points from 2008). And 36 percent reported that their parents’ highest level of education was a high school diploma or less. In sum, the 2012 testing cohort was the College Board’s most diverse to date. That’s the good news. Now for the scores. (Recall that there are now three parts of the SAT: To the traditional critical reading and mathematics sections, College Board added a writing section that was first tallied in 2006. Each section is scored from 200 to 800, with a perfect score [obviously] of 2400.) The mean subject scores this time around were 496 in critical reading (down four points from 2008—and down a whopping thirty-four points from 1972), 514 in math (consistent since 2008 but down from a peak of 520 in 2005), and 488 in writing (down five points from its peak in 2008). Overall, the proportion of test takers whom the College Board deems reasonably prepared for college—based on combined SAT score—leveled at 43 percent in both 2011 and 2012, leaving a majority of those who presumably aspire to attend four-year colleges ill-prepared to succeed there. Not surprisingly, youths who report completing a core curriculum (four-plus years of high school English, and three-plus years of math, social studies, and science) fare better on the SAT than those who did not. (So did those enrolled in AP courses and those with college-educated parents.) The authors indicate that the College Board is “committed to building deeper alignment” between the SAT and the Common Core—which might have long-term repercussions for the test, and for those in the forty-six CCSS adoptor states who are committed to taking it. In any case, here’s further evidence of a big hole in our K-12 universe.

SOURCE: The College Board, The SAT Report on College and Career Readiness: 2012 (New York, NY: The College Board, September 2012).

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