College Board Sees Unchanged SAT Scores as a Call to Action

Most students do not meet the benchmark of college and career readiness.

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Of those who took the SAT and graduated in 2013, only 43 percent met the SAT benchmark of college and career readiness, according to College Board.

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Fewer than half of all SAT takers who graduated in 2013 are adequately prepared for college, according to new data released Thursday from the College Board.

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Of the more than 1.6 million students who took the SAT and graduated in 2013, only 43 percent met the SAT benchmark of college and career readiness, a score of 1550 that indicates a student has a 65 percent chance of having a B- average GPA or higher during his or her first year of college. The percentage of students who meet that benchmark has remained essentially unchanged since 2009.

College Board President David Coleman said in a statement that the stagnant scores are a "call to action".

"We must dramatically increase the number of students in K–12 who are prepared for college and careers," Coleman said. "Only by transforming the daily work that students do can we achieve excellence and equity."

Students' scores on individual sections have also remained constant in the last few years. In 2013, the average reading score dropped three points from 2009, to 496. Average math scores have remained the same at 514 since 2007, while the average writing score dropped four points from 2009, to 488. The highest possible score in each section is 800.

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Despite the mediocre scores overall, there were gains in the number of underrepresented minority students who took the SAT, as well as improvements in the scores of those students. In 2013, minority students made up 46 percent of all SAT takers, the highest percentage ever.

The number of African-American students who met or exceeded the SAT benchmark rose from 14.8 percent in 2012 to 15.6 percent in 2013. Likewise, the percentage of Hispanic students who met or exceeded the benchmark increased from 22.8 percent in 2012 to 23.5 percent in 2013.

But those students still scored, on average, below the 50th percentile in all sections. In writing, for example, a score of 480 would mean the test taker scored higher than half of all test takers. But the average writing score for Hispanic, Latino or Latin American students in 2013 was 443. For African-American students, it was 418.  

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Average section scores also appeared to increase with family income and the level of parental education. Students who reported an annual family income of more than $200,000 on average scored significantly higher than the mean in all sections, whereas students who reported family incomes of up to $20,000 scored far below average. Test takers whose parents did not complete high school scored, on average, more than 100 points lower in each section than those who have one or both parents with a graduate degree.  

The College Board said more needs to be done to improve students' scores and better prepare them for college-level course work and suggested expanding access to more rigorous course work, such as advanced placement classes, making college information more available to low-income students, and offering SAT fee waivers to low-income students. 

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