by Dr. Terry Stoops
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
Sociologist William Julius Wilson points out that "the person who scored well on an SAT will not necessarily be the best doctor or the best lawyer or the best businessman. These tests do not measure character, leadership, creativity, perseverance." This is true. But until we have a test that measures character, leadership, creativity, and perseverance, we will have to stick to talking about SAT scores.
Yesterday, The College Board released 2012 SAT results for North Carolina and the nation. The state’s combined score (reading and math) was 997, a four-point decrease from last year and a seven-point increase since 2010. I’ll have more to say about this later. First, here is a brief overview:
North Carolina’s SAT scores follow a national trend of steep declines in scores. This year, the national average score fell by one point compared to 2011 and five points compared to 2010. Don’t blame the North Carolina GOP for the drop in average SAT scores because it is happening everywhere.
It is also essential to remember that SAT test takers have been in school for a decade prior to taking the test. Changes in student performance are reflections of their cumulative educational experience and not one or two years of reform initiatives. Most importantly, SAT scores reflect only a portion of our public school population, namely the two-thirds of high school students with the ability and/or interest in attending an institution of higher education. For these reasons, we should interpret SAT scores with caution.
If colors communicate meaning, what does gamboge represent?
Facts and Stats
North Carolina had the 17th highest participation rate (68 percent) and the eighth highest combined score among states that had participation rates above 60 percent. According to College Board researchers, Pearson correlation analysis suggests that the higher the percentage of students taking the SAT, the lower the average SAT scores. This makes sense intuitively. States with higher participation rates typically have a greater share of marginal students in their test-taking population. In turn, the state’s average score will be lower.
In the case of North Carolina, however, this may not be the case. College Board researchers write,
In 2012, the Pearson correlation between the percent of students taking the SAT and the mean total SAT score for public schools was 0.24. These correlations suggest that participation rate is a lesser factor in predicting SAT scores for public school systems and public schools in North Carolina than for states. In view of the above correlations, schools and school systems in North Carolina should exercise caution when attributing decreases or increases in mean SAT scores to changes in participation rate. (NC SAT Report, p. 24)
Statewide participation rates have increased in each of the last two years. This increase may account for a small portion of the decrease in the state average score. College Board officials suggest that changes in test-taking patterns, such as inclusion of a writing section and decrease in repeat test taking, may play a significant role in such declines.
I would like to invite all readers to submit announcements, as well as their personal insights, anecdotes, concerns, and observations about the state of education in North Carolina. I will publish selected submissions in future editions of the newsletter. Anonymity will be honored. For additional information or to send a submission, email Terry at [email protected].
Education Acronym of the Week
CR — Critical Reading
Quote of the Week
"You must realize that honorary degrees are given generally to people whose SAT scores were too low to get them into schools the regular way. As a matter of fact, it was my SAT scores that led me into my present vocation in life, comedy."
– Neil Simon
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