by Genevieve Demos Kelley
How well did county students do on the 2014 SAT? In the table below, each PGCPS high school’s average (mean) SAT subscores in critical reading, mathematics, and writing are given below, along with the mean composite score. According to the 2014 Maryland Report Card, these are the mean scores for college bound seniors. The maximum score for each subtest (i.e. reading, math, writing) is 800, and the maximum composite score is 2400. Data for the 2015 SAT scores is not yet available. (Update: Find 2015 SAT scores here.)
The Prince George’s County mean composite score of 1199 is significantly lower than the national average (1497) and Maryland state average (1439). Eleanor Roosevelt, which has a science and technology specialty program, was the only school whose average SAT score was higher than the Maryland or national average.
To put PGCPS’s SAT performance into perspective, it is useful to compare the county’s scores with those of other test-takers in the total group (i.e. students across the U.S. and Canada) of 2014 college-bound seniors. The College Board has published a table with the 2014 percentile ranks for the reading, mathematics, and writing SAT subscores.
The average critical reading score for Prince George’s County students is 409, which corresponds to a percentile rank of about 21. This means that a student with the county’s average score of 409 did better on the critical reading subtest than approximately 21% of all students taking the SAT. The PGCPS mathematics score was 394 with a percentile rank between 14 and 16. (The College Board states that 390 and 400 correspond to percentile ranks of 14 and 16, respectively, but it does not specify the percentile rank for scores that are not multiples of ten.) The average writing subscore for Prince George’s County students was 396, which has a percentile rank somewhere between 19 and 21.
The county’s average composite score of 1199 (out of a possible 2400) corresponds to a percentile rank of about 18. A PGCPS student with the county’s average SAT score did better than about 18% of college-bound seniors nationwide. Maryland’s average composite score of 1439 is ranked at about the 44th percentile.
It is interesting (though not terribly surprising) that the county’s average composite ACT score was significantly better when compared with the SAT score. The average composite ACT score of 18 comes in at a percentile rank of 36. However, comparitively few Prince George’s County students took the ACT.
When looking at these admittedly dismal numbers, it is important to note that the usefulness of the SAT and ACT as predictors of success in college has been questioned in recent years. Some colleges and universities no longer require that students submit SAT or ACT scores. Many have criticized the SAT and ACT as being racially biased and highly dependent on socio-economic status. Wealthy parents often pay for their children to take prep courses that are guaranteed to raise test scores, though some have asserted that such test prep course only account for a modest increase in scores.
Certainly, SAT scores are not the primary measure of success of a school system. They can, however, give us at least some insight into how well our students are learning the core subjects.