SAT/ACT NEWS & UPDATES

Matt's Latest SAT/ACT News Update:

Matt O'Connor

Nov 01, 2018

The College Board has released the 2018 SAT testing report. The number of students in the class of 2018 taking the SAT (including overseas students) rose to 2,136,539, up from 1,715,481 for the class of 2017. This represents an increase of 24.5%, and a jump of 421,058 students. Recent statewide contract wins for the SAT in Michigan, Illinois, Colorado, West Virginia are a large part of the increase, as are the number of school districts now participating in SAT School Day. Participants in SAT School Day rose 70%, from 460,000 in the class of 2017 to 780,000 in the class of 2018.

The College Board includes overseas testers in its testing report numbers, while the ACT does not. I would estimate the number of overseas testers in the class of 2018 at about 145,000, which would make the number of US students from the class of 2018 tested on the SAT at a shade under 2 million, versus 1.915 million for the ACT.

The average SAT score among the class of 2018 rose to 1068, up slightly from 1060 for the class of 2017.

The College Board release is here.

More statistics are available at this SAT program results page.

The SAT Total Group Report for 2018 (pdf) is here.

Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed looks at the SAT results in this article.

[Excerpts]

The College Board noted that it has worked to make free services available to help people prepare for the SAT. But Monica Noll, manager of teacher training at Kaplan Test Prep, offered a related theory via email: "The Class of 2017 was the first class to go through the new SAT and understandably had fewer new resources available, less time with the new content, and were making big decisions on when to test. Members of the Class of 2018 had more time and more resources available to prepare. There was an increased level of comfort because of this. Second, unlike members of the Class of 2017, who could either choose to take the old SAT or new SAT, members of the Class of 2018 had no such choice -- they could only take the new SAT. This allowed them to singularly focus."

This year 68 percent of those who took the SAT also took the essay portion. As more and more colleges have dropped the SAT essay as a requirement, many have questioned why students should be put through the stress of preparing for and taking the essay test.

The average combined score of the mathematics and evidence-based reading and writing sections of the SAT of Asian Americans was 1223, up 42 points. That gain was far larger than those of other groups. Asian Americans now make up 10 percent of test takers, up from 9 percent a year ago. The results come at a time of increased scrutiny over the use of test scores in college admissions, and of trends showing that some groups, on average, earn much better scores than do others.

Education Week has a detailed article regarding the SAT report here.

[Excerpts]

The 2018 SAT scores showed that only 47 percent of students met both the math and reading college readiness benchmark. According to the College Board, "students who meet these benchmarks have a 75 percent likelihood of earning a C or better in a related introductory, credit-bearing college course." The percentage of students meeting the benchmark is up only 1 percentage point from last year.

It's difficult to compare year-over-year results because the SAT has seen significant changes in its testing population, said Jane Dapkus, vice president of college readiness assessment for the College Board in a press briefing on Wednesday.

It's also the first year that all students took the redesigned SAT, which debuted in March 2016. Last year only 93 percent took the new SAT.

While it's hard now to conclude anything from the results because it's only the second year of the new test, and the testing population has changed, Cyndie Schmeiser, a senior adviser to David Coleman, the College Board president, said that the testing population will stabilize over time.

The increase in average scores can also be attributed to the fact that the new SAT is "so aligned" to what's happening in the classroom, she added.

"In time, we will see changes that are true reflection in students improving their readiness over time," Schmeiser said.

The number of students who took the now-optional essay is down 2 percent from last year.

Akil Bello, an independent educational consultant based in New York City, characterized the decline as a "positive thing," and a trend "worth watching," because fewer colleges are requiring the essay. Students shouldn't be spending time and money on something that's "unnecessary," he said.

Nick Anderson of the Washington Post weighs in on the 2018 SAT report here.

[Excerpts]

Scores on college admission tests for the Class of 2018 are sending warning signs about math achievement in the nation’s high schools.

Forty-nine percent of students in this year’s graduating class who took the SAT received a math score indicating they had a strong chance of earning at least a C in a college-level math class, according to data made public Thursday. That was significantly lower than on the reading and writing portion of the tests: 70 percent of SAT-takers reached a similar benchmark in that area.

Math readiness among some groups was far lower than the average — 23 percent for African Americans and 33 percent for Latino students.

Among those who took the ACT, the share showing readiness for college-level math fell to the lowest level in 14 years — 40 percent. That was down from a recent high of 46 percent, according to ACT data made public last week.

Taken together, the results point to a major challenge for educators.

Forbes chimes in on the recent SAT testing report, with a long-time teacher offering Six Reasons Not To Get Excited About The New SAT Scores.

US News & World Report has published an article focusing on the growth of test optional policies among US colleges and universities, ranging from the first such policy adoption by Bowdoin in 1969 to the recent (and surprising) announcement from the University of Chicago.

[Excerpts]

"There seems to be a movement afoot," says Whitney Soule, dean of admissions and student aid at Bowdoin College, the private liberal arts school in Brunswick, Maine, which was the first to make college entrance exams optional 50 years ago.

"What's important about this is that there's a difference in making it optional and eliminating it as a piece of material," she says. "When the test scores are present, we use them. We don't disregard them. But what we're signaling to students is that we feel for the way we do our work at Bowdoin, what we're looking for, that we can make a very solid predictive academic assessment on the materials we require."

Bowdoin requires two essays, a school transcript, two teacher evaluations and a recommendation from a college counselor.

"By being test-optional we're not taking a position on testing," Soule stresses. "We are taking a position on how we use testing in our process."
Soule says she's been fielding phone calls from admissions officers at other schools asking how they might best prepare for a change in their applicant pool if they decide to go the test-optional route.

"Any school admissions office has a responsibility to understand the value of the things they require. You need to understand what it's meant for, what you're using it for and if it's serving that purpose."

The University of Chicago is among the most recent crop of schools to announce this fall that it's making the ACT and SAT optional for students. The move drew a collective gasp from the higher education community as it's the first large, elite research institution – and one known for its rigorous quantitative academic programs, no less – to make the move.

"It's a tremendous legitimizer that even the most selective, big institutions, which are getting huge numbers of applicants and rejecting huge numbers of applicants, can do it," says Bob Schaeffer, the public education director at FairTest.

Admissions offices at about 40 additional colleges and universities are mulling the test-optional policy, Shaeffer says, including small, private schools as well as large public institutions. The higher education community is waiting with bated breath for the University of California system to wrap its evaluation of whether to go test-optional. Many view the system's decision as directing the fate of college entrance exams, since the schools have had an outsized influence on the tests in the past.

"Getting the UC system to adopt the SAT as a requirement was the key to making it a national test in the first place," Schaeffer says. "Were the UCs to eliminate the requirement, make it optional, that would be a very significant body blow. It's the biggest state just by raw numbers, and it's the premier public system."

A student in Kentucky received a shock upon opening a letter from ACT, Inc. which stated that her ACT scores of 26 and 28 had been canceled due to suspicions of cheating. The student has decided to take the ACT again. Either score can be re-instated if she scores within 3 points of that score. About 2,500 students have their ACT scores canceled each year, according to Prep Scholar.

[Excerpts]

It's supposed to be the most exciting time of this high school senior's life, but instead Abby Kuhnell, of Walton, spends every day stressed and praying her dream of someday becoming a teacher isn't about to be crushed.

"I just kind of stopped and then my heart dropped," Abby said. "I went in to my mom and she read it and I just started crying and breaking down because my score was gone."

She's talking about her ACT score. As a junior at Walton Verona, Abby posted a 26 and then scored a 28 the next time.

Combine that with her 3.76 GPA and her top college choice, Morehead State rewarded her with a nice financial four-year package of $32,000, almost a full ride.

Then came the infamous letter that arrived at the Kuhnell family home: ACT Security saying Abby's improvement from a 16 and 17 on the ACT as a sophomore to the 26 and 28 the next year was suspicious.

US News and World has made some changes to the metrics it employs to create its 2019 edition of the Best Colleges rankings.

[Excerpts]

U.S. News made significant changes to the ranking methodology for the 2019 edition of Best Colleges to place the greatest value on student outcomes, which account for 35 percent of the rankings – up from 30 percent last year. The 2019 methodology incorporates new social mobility indicators that measure how well schools succeed at enrolling and graduating students from low-income families.

U.S. News also dropped acceptance rate as a ranking indicator and reduced the weight of expert opinions, SAT/ACT scores and high school class standing.

US News has very slightly reduced the component contributed by SAT/ACT scores to its 100-point ranking metric, from 8.125% to 7.75%, and has eliminated the acceptance rate component, which previously contributed 1.25%.

EdSurge reports on a testing company that has recently received an additional $14.5 million in funding: A Test Worth Teaching To? How a College Dropout Plans to Replace the SAT and ACT

[Excerpts]

Rebecca Kantar is fighting an uphill battle. She says so herself.

The 26-year-old entrepreneur has set out to replace the standardized tests that are deeply entrenched in K-12 and higher education, like the SAT and ACT, and she tells EdSurge her efforts to do so are sure to spark controversy.

But if Kantar is fighting an uphill battle for Imbellus, the simulation-based assessment company she founded in 2016 and now manages, then a handful of venture capital firms are ready to fight it with her. On Wednesday, Imbellus announced it had raised $14.5 million in a Series A financing round led by Owl Ventures, bringing the company’s funding to-date to $23.5 million. Other investors include Upfront Ventures, Thrive Capital and Rethink Education.

Developed with learning science, psychometrics and artificial intelligence, Imbellus is a digital, scenario-based assessment set in the context of the natural world. Some scenarios play out underwater, for example, or in a forest. (The assessment excludes humans and man-made markers, such as shopping malls or hospitals, because those have proven to add bias.) Those who take the assessment must decipher complex patterns, solve problems and think analytically. Such skills—and others, like creativity and reasoning—are the ones employers actually care about, Kantar says.

So what about the schools? Elite colleges, like Kantar’s would-be alma mater, care whether and where their students get hired. They want them to be hired by elite employers. So if companies start to think their new hires are not prepared for the workforce and haven’t been taught the proper skills, then that college-to-career pipeline will begin to rupture. Employers will stop trusting schools to vet their candidates with metrics like the ACT, SAT and Advanced Placement (AP) exams. It’s already happening, surveys show.