SAT Executive Director Comments on College Readiness
Earlier this Fall, the College Board released a study on the use of the SAT in determining a student’s likelihood of college and career success. Jennifer Karan, Executive Director of the SAT Program at the College Board, was kind enough to send me her thoughts on the report, which are reprinted below:
Does Parental Education Affect SAT Achievement?
The College Board’s most recent SAT Report on College & Career Readiness shows that the class of 2012 was the most diverse class of SAT takers in history – and representative of the diversity in our nation’s classrooms.
While our efforts to democratize access to higher education are yielding some positive results, the report shows that non-school factors, including parental education, can have an outsized impact on students’ college readiness.
Sixty percent of SAT takers whose parents had attained a bachelor’s degree met the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark, compared to only 27 percent of SAT takers whose parents had not attained a four-year college degree. The differences in college readiness by level of parental education is another indicator of the inequities in our educational system, as students from families with lower levels of parental education are more likely to attend less resourced schools where they may not have access to or are not encouraged to complete a rigorous core curriculum, which is a basic requirement for college readiness.
In concert with many of the efforts currently underway, lawmakers and policymakers should continue to focus on ensuring that underserved and first-generation college students have access to the SAT and other educational opportunities. Without these proactive efforts, it is likely that the number of Americans with college degrees over the long term will not grow, causing further inequity in educational achievement and income disparity.
Of the students in the class of 2012 who reported being first generation college goers, nearly half – 46 percent – were minority students. Specifically, 62 percent of all Hispanic SAT takers and 48 percent of all African American SAT takers in the class of 2012, respectively, are first-generation college goers.
A central part of the College Board’s efforts to expand access to the exam for underserved students is the SAT Fee Waiver Program. In the 2011-2012 academic year, the College Board expended over $44 million on SAT Fee Waivers and related expenses, enabling 22 percent of SAT takers to have access to the test and other services free of charge.
Jennifer’s observations dovetail nicely with my own previous comments about the outsized role that parental education plays in determining a student’s likelihood of success:
The correlation between family income and/or race and SAT performance may be in some ways misleading. It’s not necessarily that students are simply ‘buying’ better scores or that the test is culturally biased against minorities, so much as the parents of better scoring students tend to be better educated themselves, and therefore have developed skill sets that can be passed down to help their children perform more optimally. Since better educated parents are also more likely to be both wealthy and white, these socio-economic discrepancies appear amplified in the SAT score disparities.
Bottom line: the College Board study further supports the notion that, in terms of a student’s college success, nothing succeeds like parental success.