By the SAT Standard, Less Than Half of College-Bound Seniors Are Ready

Only 43 percent of 2012’s high-school graduates are prepared for success in college, according to a report released on Monday by the College Board, which owns the SAT.

The SAT Report on College & Career Readiness says that a majority of test takers did not achieve the college-entrance examination’s benchmark score of 1550, which the College Board suggests is indicative of college success and graduation. The SAT is scored on a 2400-point scale.

But the SAT is only one factor indicating college readiness and likelihood of completion, the College Board noted, and therefore students who score below the benchmark can still succeed in college. The strongest indicators of college success, the report says, are taking a rigorous high-school curriculum and having parents with postsecondary degrees.

Members of the high-school Class of 2012 who took the SAT represented the largest and most diverse pool in the test’s history, according to the report. Of the more than 1.66 million test takers from the Class of 2012, 45 percent identified themselves as minority students, up from 38 percent in 2008. Thirty-six percent of test takers said their parents’ highest level of education was a high-school diploma or less.

While participation has increased 6 percent since 2008, SAT scores have decreased slightly. Mean scores for critical reading are down four points, writing scores are down five points, and mathematics scores have remained stable, compared with four years ago. The overall mean for the Class of 2012 was 1498, substantially below the 1550 benchmark.

Researchers continue to debate whether the SAT reliably predicts success in college; some studies support the test’s role, while others say it is a poor indicator of future academic performance, putting low-income and minority students at a disadvantage.

Via Caitlin Peterkin, The Chronicle of Higher Ed.

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College Entrance Exam ACT’s Validity Questioned

A new study has found that two of the four main parts of the ACT — science and reading — have “little or no” ability to help colleges predict whether applicants will succeed.

The analysis also found that the other two parts — English and mathematics — are “highly predictive” of college success. But because most colleges rely on the composite ACT score, rather than individual subject scores, the value of the entire exam is questioned by the study.

“By introducing noise that obscures the predictive validity of the ACT exam, the reading and science tests cause students to be inefficiently matched to schools, admitted to schools that may be too demanding — or too easy — for their levels of ability,” says the paper released Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research (abstract available here).

ACT officials said that they were still studying the paper, of which they were unaware until Monday. But they defended the value of all parts of the test.

The authors of the paper are Eric P. Bettinger, associate professor of education at Stanford University; Brent J. Evans, a doctoral student in higher education at Stanford; and Devin G. Pope, an assistant professor at the business school of the University of Chicago. At a time when the ACT has grown in popularity such that it has roughly equal market share to the SAT’s, the authors write that misuse of ACT data could hinder efforts to raise college completion rates.

The research is based on a database with information about every student who enrolled at a four-year public university in Ohio in 1999. The authors obtained information about high school and college grades — and found their results consistent for students of different skill levels and for those who enrolled in colleges with different levels of difficulty in winning admission. (For comparative purposes, the authors also used data on students who enrolled in a private Western institution, Brigham Young University, and found the same patterns.)

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