National SAT scores down. Georgia up. Does it mean anything?

Do SAT scores mean anything?

Can we draw anything from the news today national scores are down slightly despite a push for more “rigor” and an increased emphasis on literacy starting in kindergarten?

According to the College Board, the average score for the Class of 2015 was 1490 out of a 2400, a 7 point drop from the prior year. Even more disconcerting, 1490 represents the lowest overall score in a decade.

However, Georgia registered an increase at the same time more students are taking the college admissions test. We still lag the national average, but we are improving.

As the AJC reports this morning:

The mean total score for Georgia students who took the exam during the 2014-15 school year was 1450, five points better than the total score for the 2013-14 school year, according to data released Thursday by the College Board, which administers the SAT. Georgia still lags behind the national score, which was 1490.

State education officials have noted a higher percentage of Georgia students take the SAT than nearly all states, which is why they believe the average score in Georgia is lower than other states. Nearly 77 percent of Georgia students from the high school graduation class of 2015 took the SAT. Only seven states and Washington, D.C. had higher percentages of students who took the SAT.

In its release materials, the College Board emphasized the rise in students taking the test rather than the decline in scores. (The College Board warns against reading too much into what it deems slight fluctuations over time.)

In the class of 2015, 1.7 million students took the SAT, a 1.6 percent jump from the class of 2014. (More students still take the ACT, about 1.9 million.)

But critics cite the new scores as evidence the testing culture is undermining education.

“Test-and-punish policies, such as ‘No Child Left Behind’ have clearly failed to improve college readiness or narrow racial gaps, as measured by the SAT. Average SAT Scores declined since 2006 for every group except Asian-Americans. The ACT admissions exam and the National Assessment of Education Progress show similar trends,” said Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest).

Interesting to note that Fulton saw its overall mean score drop, while DeKalb saw its rise. However, Fulton has higher test performance than DeKalb.

The 2014-15 mean total score for Fulton was 1558, compared to 1567 in 2013-14. The 2014-15 mean total score for DeKalb was 1332, more than 100 points higher than the 2013-14 score of 1228.

The DeKalb School of the Arts had the highest mean total score in the district, at 1722. The second best score belonged to Chamblee Charter High School, at 1663. Lakeside had the third best mean total score, 1560.

In Fulton, Northview High School had the highest mean total score in the district, at 1784.  The second best score belonged to Alpharetta High School, at 1689. John’s Creek was third with 1678.

The state’s highest mean score, 1848, belongs to the Gwinnett School of Math, Science and Technology, typically ranked Georgia’s top academic powerhouse. North Gwinnett High had the second-best score in the Gwinnett school district, at 1654. Brookwood High was third in Gwinnett, at 1579.

Walton High School had the highest mean total score in Cobb, at 1748. The second best score in Cobb belonged to Lassiter High School, at 1656. Pope High School was third, with 1647

The lackluster national performance is prompting debate about whether our reform strategy is working and why it seems to stall out in high school. We are making American schools more academic with even kindergartners now doing worksheets.

But are we making schools better and should SAT performance be a measure by which to judge?

 

Reader Comments 0

35 comments
MichaelRC
MichaelRC

Kindergartners doing worksheets?  This is a in interesting tag line, but where are these schools that have k students doing worksheets?   I have been visiting schools in north Georgia for 13 years and have never seen this.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Scores in aggregate mean little.  Stratify the results by demographics and then compare apples to apples.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

@OriginalProf

Race, Gender, and Economics.  Try to control as many variables as possible.

BKendall
BKendall

To answer your question, "Do SAT scores mean anything?" Yes they do, and when I finish processing them tonight to something intelligible I will publish the results. The goal is to be done by tomorrow morning.

DanofATL
DanofATL

After conducting a 2-year study on SAT scores on local and national level, I can assure you that the slight increase from 2014 to 2015 for the state of Georgia is completely misleading.   Many students received waivers in 2014 which led to a dramatic increase in the amount of students who took the exam while dramatically decreasing the overall scores for 2014.  However, outside of that year, the scores have still been steadily declining.


For instance take a look at the total scores for DeKalb County from 2006-2015 

2006: 1365

2007: 1346

2008: 1339

2009: 1334

2010: 1328

2011: 1334

2012: 1343

2013: 1343

2014: 1228

2015: 1332


As you can see, the total of 1332 in 2015 for DeKalb is lower than any previous year outside of the outlier year of 2014.  


The same is the case for the total score as a state


Georgia Total SAT Scores 2006-2015

2006: 1477

2007: 1472

2008: 1466

2009: 1460

2010: 1453

2011: 1445

2012: 1452

2013: 1452

2014: 1445

2015: 1450


Again steady decline outside outlier year of 2014.


Ultimately the current methods being utilized by students on local and national level don't work and as a nation we've been practicing the working definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over expecting different results)   The achievement gaps continue to increase.  The only demographic with increasing scores since 2006 are Asians.  


I've personally committed to putting together a Test Prep program aimed at changing the status quo and dramatically increasing these scores .   (I won't include by company's name because I believe doing so through a comment section would be tacky)

jerryeads
jerryeads

gapeach - no, the CB develops each test so that the range is from 200 (the old saw about getting 200 points for filling in your name) to 800, a perfect score. The average for all three tests together is indeed around 1500, but it is not "manipulated" to stay there.

As I remember, the last time the SAT underwent a thorough revision and scaling was 2005. We've been comparing ourselves to that point since. (Kinda. Very fancy statistical stuff allows us to compare performance to times long before that.) Sounds like they're rebuilding it again - paying attention to changes in schooling - and will start using the new tests next year. My guess is they'll try to do their development and scaling so the new test will be able to be compared to the current one.


Starik
Starik

Why does the AJC publish the data in look-up-your-school format?  Why not a table so we could easily compare districts and schools? We can make comparisons on our own.

CSpinks
CSpinks

@Starik Please forgive me, Matt. But contact Matt Cardoza at GaDOE(mcardoza@doe.k12.ga.us). Or contact me at georgiansforedexcellence@gmail.com and I can send you district and school scores.

GB101
GB101

The AJC does not have blaring headlines like it used to every September, but it still ignores the elephant in the room.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

Please note that I have added some district scores. 

gapeach101
gapeach101

I thought the College Board manipulates the scoring so the average is right around 1,500.  I don't see the national average as anything other than a preset number-more or less.  How Georgia or anyone performs in relation to that artificial number maybe of note.

jerryeads
jerryeads

I'd have to agree that rampant minimum competency testing causing the drop in averages is a tenable hypothesis. We started this silly game - deluded, conned and duped into thinking we were learning something from the results - nigh on fifty years ago, and brought it into full tilt boogie with No Child Left Ahead.

We KNOW beyond any reasonable doubt that minimum competency testing (e.g., CRCT, EOCT, whatever -CT) forces teachers to focus on the low performing kids right around the "cut score" to the detriment of all other students. It's only reasonable to expect that forcing schools to abandon teaching the smart kids (they'll pass anyway)  - and focus only on math and reading worksheets - would lower scores on full-range tests like the SAT and ACT.

That said, there are MANY factors that also bear on SAT and ACT averages, not the least of which is WHO TAKES THEM. These are NOT census or sampling tests (everybody takes them or a very carefully selected random representative sample takes them) like the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The SAT in this state is taken only by kids who are either bullied into it or actually are thinking of going to college. Yes, it's a higher percentage than most other states, which WILL lower the average. Statisticians know - but most of the public doesn't understand or believe - that there really is such a thing as regression to the mean: All other things being equal, the mean of a very low performing group such as Georgia SAT takers will tend to creep closer to the overall mean.

So, what's the bottom line? Probably, (A) we continue to pay the piper for the criminal idiocy of NCLB and high stakes minimum competency testing, and (B) it's pretty early to associate a slight rise in Georgia scores to any policy initiatives. If I were to bet on anything, it's that all the ruckus about so much testing might be resulting in a tendency for teachers actually getting to do a little more of what they want to do rather than hand out reading and math worksheets: TEACH.

redweather
redweather

SAT scores fluctuate from year to year and from decade to decade. They don't tell us everything about our students, but colleges still use them when evaluating applications for admission. They also help us compare our students with those of other states.


Small up or down moves of SAT scores in Georgia will always be news no doubt because Georgia's scores are usually near the bottom. Last year we managed to finish ahead of South Carolina, Delaware, and Washington D.C., and that was despite the fact that we went down seven points. This year we gained five points, which is nothing to celebrate.



EdumacateThat
EdumacateThat

@redweather Particularly since Georgia is still below the national average.  Also, a five point swing either way is just noise.

BKendall
BKendall

@redweather Gaining or dropping points is a misconception educational authorities have fostered on the public, supported by media who do not understand what they are reporting. What really occurred is the Graduating Class of 2015 scored differently than the class of 2014. We have gotten in the habit of comparing two different children and two very different groups of children as if they are the mystical identical widgets my generation was so fond of talking about.

straker
straker

"or narrow racial gaps"


Not to worry!!


Yet another social experiment designed to narrow that gap will be just around the corner.

PJ25
PJ25

The whiny Deal hating liberals on this site who are always begging for more redistribution of wealth are going to hate this. 

William1952
William1952

"National SAT scores down. Georgia up. Does it mean anything?"

Mmmmmmm.

I think it means National SAT scores are down. Georgia scores are up.

But I'm not sure.

Kammy Meowt
Kammy Meowt

This newspaper column's view on testing and accountability will apparently remain negative, despite what parents and taxpayers favor. 

But why second-guess a rise in Georgia's test scores? If our governor and legislature were Democrat would that be the case?

Of course not.

BKendall
BKendall

@tullar

Thanks for the link. Rebecca Klein did a little better at reporting than I expected. Interesting, but she does not dig into the meat of the current release. She reports older news, but does not show something not reported previously. A “Rest of the story” article. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

In the past, more students took the SAT - now it is the ACT. Also, the SAT no longer penalized for guessing.

PITTFAN
PITTFAN

@class80olddog 

Yes it is.  We were just told this in a parent meeting at the school two days ago.  

An American Patriot
An American Patriot

The oceans rise and fall.  The sun rises and sets.  The earth gets hot and then cools down.  Spikes in SAT Scores don't mean squat.  Don't get excited, it's been happening ever since the SAT Exam was introduced.  C'mon folks, the only thing that going to make a difference in public education is to return to the STATES the right to educate our children in the manner in which we choose.  Federal Government interference is the biggest obstacle to children learning.  Wait, I'll go a step further and state that "federal government interference is the biggest obstacle to improving anything in America.

BKendall
BKendall

@An American Patriot 

Have our expectations become so low as a nation, that we feel five scaled points out of 2400 scaled points is a spike. Have we as a nation, un-wittedly embraced the soft bigotry, of low expectations; without our becoming aware of it? Mental Food for thought...

JM64
JM64

If people would simply read to their children more, the education system would get better.


Please READ and encourage reading.

Astropig
Astropig

@JM64


Plus one^. The happiest time of our lives were when Astrowife and I would read with and to our 3 little 'pigs. Weekends at the bookstore,afternoons at the library...Good times.

stonepony
stonepony

It would be interesting to see the comparison to ACT scores.  More and more students are taking the ACT, and students that are not performing as well on the SAT are opting for the ACT.  So, I'm wondering if, through self selection, less students are taking the SAT, making the pool who do take it more academically solid.

BKendall
BKendall

@stonepony working on article tonight that includes ACT and SAT Scaled Scores.