The number of Houston ISD students taking the SAT college entrance exam has nearly doubled in just two years, and the number of graduates scoring at college-ready levels on the SAT has hit a new record, according to figures released today.
A score of 500 or better in each of the three SAT subjects – reading, math, and writing – is considered to be a strong sign that a student is prepared for college-level work. The Houston Independent School District’s seniors of 2012 posted significant gains in this area since 2010. In just two years, the number of HISD students scoring 500 or better has risen to 2,056 in reading (26 percent increase); 2,738 in math (41 percent increase); and 1,816 in writing (20 percent increase).
“HISD students and teachers are showing that they can meet the challenge when we raise expectations and increase the level of academic rigor in every classroom,” Superintendent Terry Grier said. “We should all be proud that hundreds more HISD graduates showed up to college this fall prepared to meet the challenge and succeed.”
In 2011, HISD became one of the very few school districts in America to offer every high school junior the chance to take the SAT for free during the school day. Students also received free access to the College Board’s online SAT test preparation materials. Typically, students must pay a fee and sign up to take the SAT on a weekend.
HISD’s effort to increase access to the SAT exam paid off, with 9,480 students in the Class of 2012 having taken the SAT, compared to just 4,920 in the Class of 2010. This represents a 93 percent increase in students taking the SAT. Two years ago, 52 percent of HISD seniors attempted the SAT at some point during high school. Now, 92 percent of students are taking the SAT by their senior year.
The rise in the number of HISD students taking the SAT was so significant that HISD accounted for half of the total statewide increase in the number of students who sat for the exam.
“On behalf of the entire College Board, I want to congratulate HISD for its outstanding growth in SAT access and success in 2012,” said College Board President Gaston Caperton. “I have had the pleasure of visiting Houston public schools and I have seen firsthand the power and the possibility afforded by the college-going culture that the district’s administrators and faculty instill in their students. HISD should be a model for large school districts across the country at a time when a weak economy is decimating their ability to produce college and career ready graduates.”
This increase in college readiness comes at a time when HISD graduates are earning more scholarship money with each passing year. In 2012, scholarship offers to HISD students exceeded $180 million, compared to $97 million in 2010.
Significant progress made by all racial and ethnic groups
The number of students scoring at the college-ready level has risen in every subject among every racial and ethnic group since 2010.
- Among African American students, the number scoring 500 or better has increased 33 percent in reading, 55 percent in math, and 35 percent in writing.
- The number of Hispanic students reaching the college-ready level has jumped 40 percent in reading, 73 percent in math, and 29 percent in writing.
- Among white students, the number reaching the college-ready mark has climbed 23 percent in reading, 21 percent in math, and 16 percent in writing.
- The number of Asian American students hitting the college-ready mark is up l percent in reading, 4 percent in math, and 3 percent in writing.
Participation up among all student groups
SAT participation rates increased rapidly for students of every race and ethnicity over the past two years.
- For the Class of 2012, there were 2,654 African American students tested, compared to 1,508 in 2010, an increase of 76 percent.
- The number of Hispanic students tested jumped from 2,165 in 2010 to 5,063, a 134-percent increase.
- Among white students, the number tested increased from 673 in 2010 to 890 in 2012, an increase of 32 percent.
- The number of Asian American students tested now stands at 456, compared to 388 in 2010, a difference of 18 percent.
As participation increases, average scores decline
As the number of students taking the exam dramatically increased, average scores dropped predictably. The College Board has reported that scores tend to decline as the number of low-income students and first-generation immigrant students take the exam. In 2012, the average HISD reading score dropped 35 points to 410, while the average math score declined 31 points to 439, and writing dropped by 34 points to 406. Average SAT scores also declined nationally and statewide.
If we eliminate the bottom 3,259 scores in 2012, which is the difference in the number of students tested from 2011 to 2012, average scores in each subject would increase substantially. The average composite score for the top 6,225 students tested in 2012 is 1,424, compared to 1,355 for the 6,225 students in the Class of 2011 who took the SAT. Although this is not a statistically valid comparison to make, it does offer some valuable insight into the impact that increasing the testing pool has on average scores.
“While Houston’s students are making strong progress, far too many are leaving high school unprepared for college and to contribute to our city’s prosperity,” Dr. Grier said. “We must do better.”
This year, HISD launched a new and improved curriculum designed with the input of thousands of teachers. The new curriculum is aligned with state and national standards and will prepare students to meet increasingly tough academic standards. The new curriculum also places an emphasis on every child reading at or above grade level.
Moving forward, high school teachers and counselors will be encouraging more students to take advantage of the free online SAT test preparation materials that are available from the College Board.