SAT scores are up for the Class of 2018, both nationwide and in New York State, where the three-hour exam serves as a major gatekeeper for college admissions, sponsors said Thursday.
Testing officials at the Manhattan-based College Board said combined reading and math scores across the country rose to an average 1068 points out of a possible 1600 this year, compared with an average 1060 in 2017. For the state, students’ marks increased from 1052 to 1068 on average.
The latest SAT scores for school districts on Long Island have not yet been released. However, a Newsday analysis of test results from 2017 found that 71 school districts in this region performed above the national average, while 27 systems achieved at or below that level.
The College Board also reported an uptick this year to 47 percent in the number of test-takers deemed ready for college and careers because of their test scores — a 1 percentage point increase from last year.
Experts on testing cautioned against placing too much importance on a one-year improvement in scores, especially since the SAT underwent a redesign in 2016. Performance often rises on such assessments within a year or two of major changes, as students become more familiar with a new exam’s format, analysts noted.
“What almost always happens, with the introduction of a new test, is that scores almost always start out low, and then with an increase in test prep, scores rise for several years,” said Robert Schaeffer, public education director for Fair Test, a Boston-based research and advocacy group. “It’s something you see with standardized tests all the time. For a couple years, scores go up, then typically flat line.”
Fair Test, also known as the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, advocates against what it considers overuse of standardized testing.
Still, this year’s scoring improvement was worth noting, if only because it was rare. Scores in both reading and math declined steadily for more than a decade, before the SAT’s remodeling was completed in 2016.
The exam’s reading section is officially known as ERW, for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing.
“It’s encouraging that these scores are on the rise, and that there’s a rise in test-takers,” said Monica Noll, manager of teacher training for Kaplan Test Prep, a leading private tutoring company whose clients include thousands of students in Nassau and Suffolk counties. “It’s an exam you can prepare for.”
The revamped SAT reflects the most extensive changes in a decade, changes that shed much of the old exam’s use of obscure vocabulary and bring its subject matter closer to material actually taught in classrooms. The new version has longer reading passages and eliminates scoring penalties for wrong answers.
The College Board reported 25 percent growth this year in students taking the SAT, to about 2.1 million worldwide. That puts the SAT numerically ahead of the rival ACT entrance exam, which is published in Iowa, for the first time since 2012.
College Board authorities credited growth to a number of factors, including the test redesign, fee waivers for families with modest incomes and a provision of free online tutoring for students in need of exam preparation.
“We changed the test itself, upended the landscape of costly test prep by offering free, personalized practice for all, and propelled students forward with fee waivers and scholarship opportunities,” said David Coleman, the College Board’s CEO. “What is at stake is not higher scores. It’s students having the opportunity to own their future.”
The fee for students who pay full price is $47.50 for the SAT’s reading and math sections alone. The price rises to $64.50 when students also write an exam essay, which is optional.
A spokesman for the ACT program, Ed Colby, said its test-taker numbers remain close to the SAT’s, at about 1.9 million.
“This isn’t about competition — it’s about helping students,” Colby added.
On Long Island, school leaders agreed that the College Board’s decision to drop a mandatory essay requirement from the SAT package was a big factor in the test’s resurgence.
“Students were nervous when the SAT was redesigned, and there was definitely a movement in favor of the ACT,” said Greg Sloan, director of guidance for the Jericho school district. “But once the essay became optional on the SAT, and students found that their scores were now in line with their expectations, the fears subsided.”
With Michael R. Ebert
Statewide SAT scores
2018 average: 1068
2017 average: 1052