SAT shows large numbers of juniors unready for college or jobs

One-third of high school juniors are not reading and writing well enough to begin taking college courses or start a career, statewide SAT results released Tuesday show. While thousands of those students are close to being where they should be, one out of every six high school juniors in Connecticut is significantly behind.

Math results are even more dire – 59 percent failed to meet the college- or career-ready standard and one-quarter were significantly behind.

Minorities and students from low-income families were far behind state averages.

The test scores were a slight increase over the previous year’s results. (See district-by-district results below.)

“We are proud of the progress we are making,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said at a press conference to release the results.

In Math, the rate of students who tested as college- and career-ready increased 2 percentage points compared to the previous year’s junior class. In English, 0.4 percent more students passed.

But the growth has been uneven – and gaps in achievement have grown between minority students and their white peers.

“Closing the gap depends on helping the students that need us the most,” said State Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell said.

“There is still more progress to make in closing the achievement gap,” said Malloy.

Students are considered college- and career-ready if they score at least 480 points out of 800 on the English portion of the SAT exam and 530 out of 800 on math. Students who reached that target have a 75 percent probability of earning a “C” in that subject in college.

State Department of Education officials say the results provide an accurate picture of how prepared high school students are for college or a career. Just over 40,000 students took the SAT in the school year that just ended – a 96 percent participation rate among high school juniors.

While many districts already had provided the SAT for free to students, state officials decided two years ago to require every high school junior to take the exam instead of the controversial Smarter Balanced Assessment. That move came amid pushback from parents and teachers who said students were being over-tested, and large numbers of students were electing not to take the Smarter Balanced exam that the state uses to grade whether schools throughout the state are effective. In 2015, just 81 percent of high school students took the exam.

The state pays for students in the 30 lowest-performing districts to take the SAT practice exam to help them better prepare for the actual test.

The results of these exams contribute to the grades schools receive from the state. Each year, the state releases a 0-to-100 score for each school in the state. The SAT results will account for just under half of a school’s score. Those school ratings will not measure or determine whether students eventually catch up, because schools do not measure the scores if students independently take the exam again.

(See how your district did last year here.)