The College Board has released a new report The SAT Report on Colleges and Career Readiness that reveals only 43 percent of SAT takers in the class of 2012 graduated from high school prepared for college study. These findings are based on the percentage of students in the class of 2012 who met the SAT College & Career Readiness Benchmark, which research shows is associated with higher rates of enrollment in four-year colleges, higher first-year college GPAs and higher rates of retention beyond the first year.
"This report should serve as a call to action to expand access to rigor for more students," said College Board President Gaston Caperton. "Our nation's future depends on the strength of our education system. When less than half of kids who want to go to college are prepared to do so, that system is failing. We must make education a national priority and deliver rigor to more students."
The report comes at a time when a national debate is raging over education reform, as states reconstruct their public school districts to conform to higher standards and districts seek to align their curriculums with the Common Core Standards advanced by the National Governors Association. The College Board has been a consistent advocate and collaborator in the development of the Common Core State Standards, helping to draft the original College and Career Readiness Standards, providing feedback on the K–12 standards and serving on the advisory group that guided the initiative. The data on student preparation also frames a larger debate over teacher effectiveness, tenure and evaluation, issues that were much discussed during the recent Chicago teachers’ strike.
More than 1.66 million students in the class of 2012 took the SAT, making it the largest class of SAT takers in history. In the high school class of 2012, 43 percent of students met the SAT College & Career Readiness Benchmark. This is consistent with the previous year in which the same percentage of students met the benchmark. A benchmark score of 1550 on the SAT indicates a 65 percent likelihood that a first year college student will achieve a B- average or higher at a four-year college. The data also confirms that students who complete a core curriculum and enroll in honors and/or Advanced Placement (AP) courses perform better on the SAT.
The report also mirrors the growing diversity of the nation with more minority students taking the SAT and seeking college entrance. Among all SAT takers in the class of 2012, 45 percent were minority students; the most diverse class of SAT takers ever. Among public school SAT takers, 46 percent were minority students. Among the SAT class of 2012, 36 percent of all students reported their parents' highest level of education as a high school diploma or less. Underserved minority students accounted for 46 percent of first-generation college goers. Conversely, underserved minority students accounted for only 20 percent of SAT takers in the class of 2012 who reported their parents had a postsecondary degree.
"Taking a college entrance exam is a critical step on the road to higher education, but many traditionally underserved students face financial, familial and geographic barriers that can prevent them from testing," said James Montoya, vice president of relationship development for the College Board. "Low-income students are less likely to have parents who went to college, less likely to participate in rigorous courses and less likely to have completed a core curriculum. Providing these students with the support and resources they need is crucial to meeting our nation's long-term college completion goals."
The College Board has in place a fee waiver for low-income students for whom the exam fees would present a burden and obstacle in the college admissions process. More students in the class of 2012 used the fee waiver, in place since 1970, than any class in the history of the program. Seventy (70) percent of SAT fee-waiver recipients reported their parents' highest level of education as a high school diploma or less, compared to 26 percent of non-fee-waiver SAT takers, while 46 percent of SAT fee-waiver recipients reported that English was not exclusively their first language, compared to 23 percent of non-fee-waiver SAT takers. During the 2011-12 academic year, the College Board expended more than $44 million in fee waivers and related expenses.