Using Aggregate Scores 2011

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Educators, the media and others should:

Use aggregate scores in conjunction with other factors such as the number of courses taken in academic subjects, scores on other standardized tests, pupil–teacher ratios, teacher credentials, expenditures per student, participation rates, retention and attrition rates, graduation rates and other outcome measures for:

  • Evaluation of the general direction in which education in a particular jurisdiction is headed;
  • Curriculum development;
  • Faculty staffing;
  • Student recruitment;
  • Planning for physical facilities;
  • Student services such as guidance and placement; and
  • Monitoring teacher development and curricular effectiveness over time.

Should not rank or rate teachers, educational institutions, districts or states solely on the basis of aggregate scores derived from tests that are intended primarily as a measure of individual students.

 

A Note on the Use of Aggregate SAT Data

As measures of developed critical reading, mathematical and writing abilities important for success in college, SAT scores are useful in making decisions about individual students and assessing their academic preparation. Because of the increasing public interest in educational accountability, aggregate test data continue to be widely publicized and analyzed. Aggregate scores can be considered one indicator of educational quality when used in conjunction with a careful examination of other conditions that affect the educational enterprise. However, it is important to note that many College Board tests are taken only by particular groups of self-selected students. Therefore, aggregate results of their performance on these tests usually do not reflect the educational attainment of all students in a school, district or state. Useful comparisons of students’ performance are possible only if all students take the same test. Average SAT scores are not appropriate for state comparisons because the percentage of SAT takers varies widely among states. In some states, a very small percentage of the college-bound seniors take the SAT. Typically, in a state with a very small percentage of the college-bound population taking the SAT, these students have strong academic backgrounds and are applicants to the nation’s most selective colleges and scholarship programs. Therefore, it is expected that the SAT critical reading, mathematics and writing averages reported for these states will be higher than the national averages. In states where a greater proportion of students with a wide range of academic backgrounds take the SAT, the scores are closer to the national averages.

 

How should colleges and universities use SAT scores in admission decisions?

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SAT scores can make a significant contribution to admission decisions when colleges, universities and systems of higher education use them properly. To advise these institutions on the proper use of SAT scores, the Guidelines on the Uses of College Board Test Scores and Related Data (2011) indicates that the responsible officials and selection committee members at each institution should:

  • Know enough about tests and test data to ensure that their proper uses and limitations are understood and applied.
  • Use SAT scores in conjunction with other indicators, such as the secondary school record (grades and courses), interviews, personal statements, writing samples, portfolios, recommendations, etc., in evaluating the applicant's admissibility at a particular institution.
  • View admission test scores as contemporary and approximate indicators rather than as fixed and exact measures of a student's preparation for college-level work.
  • Evaluate test results and other information about applicants in the context of their particular background and experience, as well as in the context of the programs they intend to pursue.
  • Ensure that small differences in test scores are not the basis for rejecting an otherwise qualified applicant.
  • Guard against using minimum test scores unless used in conjunction with other information such as secondary school performance and unless properly validated. An exception to this guideline is that institutions may establish, based on empirical data, specific score levels that reflect desired skill competencies, such as English language proficiency.
  • Regularly validate data used in the selection process to ensure their continuing relevance.
  • Maintain adequate procedures for protecting the confidentiality of test scores and other admission data.
  • When introducing or revising admission policies, allow sufficient lead time and provide adequate notice to schools and students, so that they can take the new policies into account when planning school programs and curricular offerings and preparing for admission tests and other requirements.

 

How prevalent are changes in high school SAT scores?

This table shows that most changes in mean SAT scores are not unusual. Based on schools in which at least 50 college-bound seniors took the SAT, it shows the percentage of schools whose mean scores rose or fell at least 10, 20, 30, 40 or 50 points by the size of their test-taking populations (50–99, 100–299 and 300+ test-takers) and across all schools. Low-volume schools tend to have larger changes. For example, 59 percent of schools with 50–99 test-takers saw their SAT critical reading mean scores rise or fall 10 or more points, well above the 31 percent of schools with 300 or more test-takers.

 

Percentage of High Schools Whose Mean SAT Scores Rose or Fell in 2010–2011

 

 

Scores rose or fell at least this many points

Percent of schools with this much score change, by number of test-takers

Percent of all schools with 50+ test-takers with this much score change

50-99

100-299

300+

Critical Reading

10

59%

44%

31%

48%

20

27%

13%

6%

18%

30

11%

3%

2%

6%

40

4%

1%

1%

2%

50

2%

0%

1%

1%

Mathematics

10

60%

46%

31%

49%

20

28%

14%

6%

18%

30

11%

4%

2%

6%

40

4%

1%

1%

2%

50

2%

0%

1%

1%

Writing

10

58%

46%

33%

49%

20

27%

13%

7%

18%

30

11%

3%

2%

6%

40

3%

1%

1%

2%

50

1%

0%

0%

1%