Today’s High School Grads Aren’t Well-Prepared For College

Standardized testing isn’t the last word on our nation’s or student’s intelligence level, but it’s good to know if the nation’s students are able to perform to a certain standard. Testing is useful to identify critical areas where students are falling short.

In that regard, our nation’s students tested lower this year than previous years in all three portions of the SATs, continuing an ongoing trend in increasingly lower test scores despite this year’s higher turnout.

Bloomberg reported that students’ SAT scores have reached a record 10-year low. The SATs saw a record turnout with 1.7 million high school students taking the test, but the scores didn’t benefit from the larger pool of test takers.

On average, students scored 1490 out of 2400 possible pointsreported the College Board, the test administrators. That score is down by an average of 7-points from the previous year’s students.

If you’ve ever commented on social media, you may have run into a person or 5,000 who appear inable to comprehend a single sentence you write? You’re not imagining it, reading comprehension has been steadily declining for the last 40 years, this year being worse than the previous year.

Bloomberg

Math scores have also been plummeting since around 2005, but were steadily on the rise until that point since 1981. Now, the good news is, the nations students test much higher in math than they did in the early 80’s but they’re still gradually underscoring their peers from previous years.

Bloomberg

The written portion of the SAT also took a nose dive, plunging an average of 3-points from the previous year. Since the essay portion was introduced a decade ago, students have been on a steady decline.

Bloomberg

Cyndie Schmeiser — chief of assessment for the College Board, says the written portion will become optional in this coming Spring, snapping the score back to 1600 possible points — although students can still take the written portion worth 800 points. Students will not be penalized if they opt out.

Are Testing Adjustments What Is Really Needed Here?

It seems like simply lowering the bar to make a person appear more college-ready is ultimately destructive. Instead we should be looking to possible factors inside and outside the educational system to find a solution to better prepare high school students for the rigors of higher education.

Every year’s standardized test scores return evidence that students are increasingly less prepared to become successful college students. This decline comes at a time when several types of educational reforms have been put into place.

For example, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) implemented by George W. Bush in 2001 has critics saying students during the NCLB years were only taught to memorize information in order to score well on tests. Many say this has resulted in a one-dimensional education rather than a well-rounded dynamic education. The NCLB Act also didn’t take into account a student’s ability, unless they are disabled. The NCLB program was introduced while today’s high school grads were still in their formative years.

While the NCLB Act was purported to have increased reading scores in children, but that hasn’t translated to higher test scores for college entrance exams.

The Washington Post writes:

It is difficult to pinpoint a reason for the decline in SAT scores, but educators cite a host of enduring challenges in the quest to lift high school achievement. Among them are poverty, language barriers, low levels of parental education and social ills that plague many urban neighborhoods.

This sentiment is echoed by educators everywhere. The poorer a student is, the less-educated that students parents are likely to be. Less-educated people tend to work longer hours, or don’t put emphasis on their child’s education. One of the driving issues behind this election season is alleviating enormous wealth inequality, which is said to have positive impact on families and education.

This is also evident in SAT scores. Students from private schools scored an average of 1800 on their SATs, while students from public schools scored an average of 1139 — the mark of a true meritocracy.

Stripping schools of education funding in order to balance state budgets probably also isn’t helping students to succeed, yet every time a state goes into the red, money allotted in the state budget for education seems like it’s always the first to go.

Now, these are only small fluctuations in test scores, and correlation doesn’t always necessarily equal causation, but they do show an overall trend when compared to previous years in how our students are able to perform. In order to address our shortcomings in the classrooms — especially high school classrooms — we have to come to grips with teaching more than just math and reading. Put an emphasis on comprehension and critical thinking, not just memorization as well as putting equal emphasis on other school subjects.

We also need support for our nation’s economically-challenged parents, so they can return that support to their child students, but it take doing more on our part than just simply knocking off a portion of the SAT.

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