The College Board recently released their annual report, with the title “A Call to Action.” It’s a title that doesn’t bode well for the report’s contents, which this year suggest that there has been little to no improvement -not just this year, but in the last three years – in the effectiveness of a US high school education. The report is designed to show readers how many SAT-takers will be ready to leave high school when they graduate. The percentage this year? A disappointing 43 percent. That means, conversely, that 57 percent of high school graduates do not have a sufficient high school education – one that will prepare them for college and the real world. That’s a dramatic number, and it’s been the same for the past three years (down from 44 percent in 2009). Ready for news that is even more upsetting? The College Board also reports that 75 percent of US high school students receive a core curriculum consisting of four years of English and at least three years of math, natural science, social science, and history. This core curriculum is widely considered sufficient to prepare students for college and life after high school. But in the 2013 report, only 49 percent of students who got this core curriculum met the SAT college readiness benchmark. That means the standard US high school curriculum only effectively prepares half the students it manages to reach. That’s a major problem, and it’s not going to be solved with extra practice tests.
But what’s a “College Readiness Benchmark,” and how does the College board decide where it falls? The official cutoff score for college readiness, according to the College Board, is a 1550 out of 2400. (Find out what your SAT scores mean here). The College Board is vague about how it arrived at this cutoff, claiming “rigorous research” as the only source. It’s possible that the score comes partly from statistics about how SAT scores compare to later college performance. You might be wondering what is the minimum SAT score to get in to college in the first place. While there is no great answer to that question, we looked at some average scores for 2012 freshman classes, using the SUNY schools as our example. Looking at the chart below, you’ll notice a wide range that sometimes dips below the College Readiness Benchmark. In fact, according to the College Board, 46 percent of students who enrolled in a 4-year-college this year are not ready to be there.
In addition to announcing that half this year’s freshman class was not academically ready for college, the College Board Report provides some other interesting data. The chart below details the breakdown among students who met and did not meet the SAT Benchmark, with categories like whether they enrolled in college; first year GPA; and how likely they were to stay in college once they got there. Some of the disparities are pretty staggering- like the 20 percent of Benchmark-approved students who got a GPA of 3.97 or higher, compared to the 4 percent of those who missed the Benchmark and achieved similar grades.
What concerns the College Board here seems not to be the low percentage of students prepared for college, but rather the fact that the number has not changed for the last three years. In general we should be seeing an upward swing as colleges, high schools, and even middle schools become more and more competitive – and more and more expensive. How is it possible that these universities, colleges, and schools are increasing radically in selectivity each year when the general preparedness of high school students for college has not changed? The only explanation is that a large portion of our high school population is being dramatically under served – and that the problem is getting worse, not better. (Find out how a private SAT Coach will help you be college ready here). It’s no secret that US public schools face a serious imbalance in resources. In a culture where schools that perform well are rewarded with increased government funding, and underperforming schools are not, that imbalance can only increase.
So what does this mean for high school students taking the test now? Well, first of all, it’s important to put this information in perspective. Is it a problem that 57 percent of high school students are not ready for college when they graduate? Yes, it is. It’s also a problem that 2/3 of US fourth graders can’t read at grade level. SAT college readiness is the least of our problems if only a third of our generation can read by the age of ten! The College Board also announced that it is revving up its efforts to keep high school students in the know about college options, preparing early, and getting invested in a future that includes the necessary foundation-building academic study. Action is required that extends beyond just high school. How can we as educators, professionals, and parents work together to create a positive learning environment that starts early? How can we work to diminish a resource imbalance that is clearly affecting all of our students?
If you’re a high school student trying to understand how this report affects you, take a deep breath. You’re going to be fine. Feeling calmer? Good. Now reach out to your local representative and tell them to give low-performing high schools more funding priority.
SAT Preparation Group advises in test prep, college planning, and success strategies for teens. Call Us Today at 877-672-8773 or click here for a free consultation.