News: American students unprepared for college?

SATtesytJust over a week ago College Board, a not-for-profit membership organization in the US, published data indicating that only 43% of the graduates from highschool in 2013 were academically prepared for college, a number that has remained the same in the last five years.

While the US is often considered the leading country with respect to the quality of their higher education institutions, this report also shows great disparity within the educational system.  During the release of the report, Cyndie Schmeiser told Chronicle of HE reporters that the fact that the number has remained unchanged is worrisome: “We are just not moving the needle as aggressively as it needs to be moved.”

SAT is one of the most important admissions exams used in the US, which is conducted in the form of a standardized test and conducted by the College Board. The SAT tests have been around since 1926 but has undergone major revisions, with the current test introduced in 2005. The majority of four-year institutions use SAT in their admission processes. The test includes measurement on three large areas – mathematics, critical reading and writing.

The number of only 43% being ready for college was calculated based on the SAT benchmark of 1550, which the College Board associated with a 65% probability of a B- grade point average after first year, which in turn is associated with high probability of college success and completion (the press release highlights that 54% of those above the benchmark complete college vs 27% of those under the benchmark score). Furthermore, the  report links the benchmark to the completion of core curriculum, AP honours courses, as well being more likely ranked in the top 10% of their high school graduates by grade point average.

However, the debate about the appropriateness of standardized tests is ongoing. This is linked to the fact that the use of the test also shows clear socio-economic disparities, and income differences are also clearly visible in the mean scores, thus questions are being raised whether SAT is the predictor. The research published on the topic this far as provided conflicting results.

You can download the College Board test on this page.