Achieving Equity and Access for Participation in SAT

Number of APS seniors taking SAT college entrance exam soars to 90% thanks to high school principals, counselors and Achieve Atlanta

When SAT scores for APS arrived from the College Board today, the most eye-popping statistic was this: 90% of the graduates from the Class of 2019 took the test, that’s a dramatic 33 percentage points higher than the 57% from the Class of 2018.

The reason: The APS class of 2019 was the first cohort to participate in SAT School Day, in which students had the opportunity to take the SAT in their own schools, on a school day, at no cost to them!

Thanks to our high school principals and counselors for taking advantage of this opportunity. We also have an amazing partner in Achieve Atlanta, which paid for all of the tests, thus removing funding and transportation barriers for many students. We know that something as simple as not being able to take the SAT can keep a student from going to college.

I cannot begin to say how awesome this is. This is a perfect example of equity and increased rigor for our most marginalized students, especially as it relates to college access. Without taking a gateway exam, like the SAT or ACT, college is not an option. We are living the mission of college and career readiness in this initiative and the results.

As anticipated, due to this massive increase – nearly 900 more students took the test than the year before – the average total SAT score dropped from 997 to 944. State and national trends showed slight declines. See Figure 1.

Figure 1.  Average SAT score and participation – APS, Georgia, and nation

SAT chart2African-American students – the largest subgroup in APS – had an average total SAT score of 892 (down from 948 for 2018 graduates). Although this is lower than the national average of 921 and the state average of 952, note that in APS, African-American and Hispanic students saw the largest increases in number of students testing as a result of SAT School Day.  The number of African-American graduates taking the SAT increased by 59% – nearly 600 students – from 2018 to 2019. Wowza!

With this new baseline, it is difficult to make other comparisons, but we do have other good news when we look at school-by-school data.

Let’s give a shout out to Atlanta Classical Academy with a mean score of 1250; Grady High, 1094; Drew Charter, 1078; and North Atlanta, 1056.  All four schools exceeded the average total SAT score for the nation (1,039), and the average total score for Georgia (1,048).

Congratulations to our principals, Chris Knowles, Betsy Bockman, Kendrick Myers and Curtis Douglass and all of the teachers!

SAT chart

We expect to receive ACT scores for the district in mid-October; so I will report on those results when we get them.

Finally, I know this part of the work in transformation can be the hardest and scariest. Doing the right thing for all kids, especially students who have been disenfranchised from the complete school process, means APS must open gateways previously closed.

It can be a double-edged sword when the first round of results come in. But we had to get all kids to the door. Our next round of work is helping them walk through it to get the test results they need for the college of their choice.

I thank everyone for taking this risk to be transparent and true to our mission … that ALL students will be ready for college and career.

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