SAT Scores: What Teachers Can Do After Test Day

Notes that lay out study skills for high school students when preparing for the ACT or SAT

In Illinois, Michigan, and across the country, students and educators had been preparing for months to get ready for one day: April 10, the SAT school day administration. With so much energy and motivation cresting around test day, educators may be wondering, “What next?” Here are some other questions to consider as the school year winds down.

How can we make the most of the SAT score release?

Students will no doubt be anxiously awaiting their scores, which are expected to release in mid-May. As educators, consider how you can build context for your students as they anticipate their scores. If students took the PSAT/NMSQT in October, they may be interested to know that expected growth from the 11th grade PSAT to the SAT is 40 points on the composite, or 20 points on each subject score. The College Readiness Benchmarks are 480 in Evidence-based Reading and Writing and 530 in Math, and the on-track scores for the 11th grade PSAT are 460 and 510. Each college and university also reports the SAT score range of their middle 50% of admitted students. Knowing the ranges for schools like University of Illinois – Chicago (1080-1340 for the middle 50%), Michigan State University (1070-1350), Northwestern University (1480-1580), and University of Notre Dame (1410-1550) can help students build their wish lists as they prepare to apply senior year.

Consider how you can use this data to announce your school-wide performance. As you analyze results, you may find encouraging statistics:

  • Did you grow the average student’s SAT score by a greater amount than expected gains?
  • Increase the number of students meeting or exceeding the college readiness benchmark?
  • Improve the percent of students earning scores that allow them to access competitive colleges or scholarships?

Building your understanding of the SAT scores and growth norms now can help you contextualize your school’s results compellingly when the scores are released to your students and to your community.

 

What if students are not happy with their SAT scores?

While junior spring test dates are popular for students and often tied to accountability metrics for schools, thousands of seniors and rising seniors test each year. The class of 2019, who just tested as juniors, will have the opportunity to retest if desired on August 25 or October 6.

Students who are considering a senior retest should also consider their test preparation plan. Multiple tests alone do not increase SAT scores; students should plan to practice and hone their skills over the summer to get ready for test day. Student score reports include a plethora of information that can guide this preparation. For example, students receive subscores in three math domains – Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, and Passport to Advanced Math. These subscores can help students prioritize the skills that they should practice and review before test day. Educators can consider how to use this data to help students build individualized study and preparation plans that give students the best chance of increasing scores on test day.

 Teacher helping students learning from the PSAT

What do SAT scores mean for curriculum and instruction?

When the SAT was redesigned in 2014, it was brought into closer alignment than ever with high school curricula and Common Core State Standards. Educators can and should use SAT performance as one lens through which to view their broader academic program.

The content included on the SAT may raise some challenging questions. For example:

  • Fewer than 20% of the questions on the test assess geometry, while almost 30% assess problem solving and data analysis. How might a traditional Algebra, Geometry, Algebra II sequence need to be adjusted to best prepare students to perform their best on test day?
  • Over 80% of the reading test includes science, social science, and history passages. How much emphasis is being placed on critical reading comprehension skills in science and history classes?

The end of the school year is a perfect time to step back and make any adjustments necessary to ensure that the curriculum is preparing students for the rigorous demands of the test.

In addition, teachers are often surprised by the skills and practices that students must use to be successful on the test. They must dig through multiple layers of a complex text, synthesize information across texts and data, and analyze arguments. In math, students must comb through data sets to solve multi-step problems that require creativity and perseverance. Infusing these skills and practices into instruction will not only have a positive impact on SAT scores but also on students’ critical and creative thinking skills.

 

Teaching Beyond the Test

While the SAT incorporates many of the same skills that students need to be successful in college and beyond, teachers may appreciate taking the end of the school year to refocus on the areas of their curriculum that they are most passionate about, without the pressure of test day looming overhead.  The reading test requires students to analyze authors’ arguments using a paper and pencil format.  Teachers and students may enjoy lessons that teach these same skills using a discussion- or debate-focused class. The end of the year provides an amazing opportunity to experiment with new teaching styles, like a Harkness round table or project-based learning. Classroom culture should be at its peak, t and students can build on the skills that they have mastered all year long in a more authentic format.

At Academic Approach, we believe that instructional time is precious. Just like our teachers teach bell-to-bell, we encourage our schools to make the most of every day of the school year. Contact us today to learn more about how your school can use the final months of this school year to get ready for rigorous teaching and learning in the next one. Let’s talk about how we can support student skills and scores growth, and how we can partner with your teachers and school administrators to design teaching and learning solutions that integrate SAT skills and rigor into your existing curriculum and assessment systems.

Matthew Pietrafetta

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