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The first report on how Evanston Township High School 11th-graders did on the spring 2017 SAT shows a wide gap between racial and ethnic groups.  

This was the first year that all high school students in Illinois took the SAT. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) decided in July 2016 to switch from using the PARCC assessments to using the SAT to determine if high school students are meeting Illinois Learning Standards. Previously, ISBE decided to use the SAT, rather than the ACT.

The report card for ETHS prepared by ISBE reflects the percentage of students  who met standards in English Language Arts (ELA) and Math on the SAT. Students who score at or above a score of 540 in ELA and at or above a score of 540 in Math meet or exceed standards.

ETHS’s report card reflects:

• 87% of white students met standards in ELA, compared to 33% of Hispanic students, 26% of black students, and 21% of low-income students.

• 81% of white student met standards in Math, compared to 41% of Hispanic students, 20% of black students, and 21% of low-income students.

On a Statewide basis, 40% of Illinois eleventh-graders met standards in ELA and 36% in Math.

In setting the benchmarks scores at 540, ISBE decided to use scores that are higher than those used by the College Board, the owner of the SAT, to reflect college readiness. The College Board identified college readiness scores on the SAT of 480 in ELA and 530 in Math. According to the College Board, these scores predict that a student has a 75% likelihood of earning a C or higher in a related subject in their first-semester of college.

If the SAT’s lower college readiness benchmark (CRB) scores are used as the measure, significantly higher percentages of students meet the mark:

• 96% of white student met the SAT CRB in ELA, compared to 57% of Hispanic students, and 55% of Black students.

• 85% of white students met the SAT CRB in Math, compared to 45% of Hispanic students, and 27% of Black students.

The ISBE says the scores it decided to use “were recommended by Illinois teachers and adopted by the Illinois State Board of Education to reflect student mastery of the Illinois Learning standards. … The Illinois SAT performance levels align to the Illinois Learning Standards, which set rigorous expectations of mastery of the Illinois standards to demonstrate college and career readiness. They were designed to reduce the likelihood that students would need remedial coursework upon entering college.”

Significantly, the SAT’s college readiness benchmarks are aligned to C-level work, or to a GPA of 2.0 in college. In the vast majority of colleges, a GPA of 2.0 is the borderline between passing and failing. Recent studies have found that 77% of the grades given in four-year colleges are As and Bs, and that  the average college student has a GPA of 3.15.  “Where A is Ordinary: The Evolution of American College and University Grading 1940-2009” (2012) by Stuart Rojstaczer and Christopher Healy; and “” (Updated, March 2016).

A GPA of 2.0 or C-level work is just getting by.

In contrast, the ACT has linked its college readiness benchmarks to a 50% likelihood of earning a B in a related freshman year college course.

A study conducted by the College Board in 2012 reflects that the SAT score that is linked to a 75% chance of getting a C in freshman year of college is much lower than the SAT score that is linked to a 50% chance of getting a B in freshman year of college. See, “SAT Content Area Benchmarks,” Report 2012-08-31.

The composite of SAT’s college readiness benchmarks in ELA (480) and Math (530) is 1,010. A composite score of 1,010 on the SAT equates to a composite score of 19 on the ACT, according to concordance scales published by the College Board.

In contrast, the composite score used by ISBE (540 on both ELA and Math) is 1,080, which equates to a composite score of 21 on the ACT. A composite score of 21.25 on the ACT is an indicator of college readiness, and predicts that a student has a 50% chance of doing B level work in freshman year college.

The benchmarks scores selected by ISBE are closer to those needed to predict doing B level work in college.