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SAT California Policy Analysis

Analysis of impact for SAT Test Policies in School Districts in California.

Overview

The SAT and ACT are standardized tests that many colleges and universities in the United States require for their admissions process. This score is used along with other materials such as grade point average (GPA) and essay responses to determine whether or not a potential student will be accepted to the university.

The SAT has two sections of the test: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math (source). The ACT has 4 sections: English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science, with an additional optional writing section (source). They have different score ranges, which you can read more about on their websites:

Standardized tests have long been a controversial topic for students, administrators, and legislators. Since the 1940s, an increasing number of colleges have been using scores from students performances on tests like the SAT and the ACT as a measure for college readiness and aptitude (source). Supporters of these tests argue that these scores can be used as an objective measure to determine college admittance. Opponents of these tests claim that these tests are not accurate measures of students’ potential or ability and serve as an inequitable barrier to entry. Lately, more and more schools are opting to drop the SAT/ACT requirement for their Fall 2021 applications (read more about this here).

Focus: California

The University of California has announced a new test for its Admission Process by 2025. UC decision is part of a wider debate in California: for two times the California Assembly has voted a Bill that would have replaced the California State Assessment Requirement (CAASPP) with SAT in Grade 12, but both times the bill was vetoed by the Governor (first Brown, more recently Newsom). Arguments in favor of CAASPP are that it should be less biased towards students from underrepresented social groups. Also, SAT has recently introduced a “Hardship Score” to normalize the difficulties some students have during their high school years.

Since 2016-17 some Counties and Districts have decided to offer SAT for free to their students source.

The project compares participation rate and performance in these Districts with others in California, and in particular with San Mateo Unified School District.

Problem Statement

This project compares ACT and SAT results in the school districts and counties of California over three Academic Years (2016/17, 2017/18, and 2018/19). The analysis at County and District level addresses San Mateo Union High School Union in understanding the efficacy of its support to students.


Datasets

Data

There are datasets included in the data folder for this project.

Data Dictionary

FeatureTypeDatasetDescription
cdsobjectSATCounty/District/School Code
ccodeobjectSATCounty Code
cdcodeobjectSATDistrict Code
scodeobjectSATSchool Code
rtypeobjectSATRecord type; used for filtering for County District and School
snameobjectSATSchool Name
dnameobjectSAT/free_satDistrict Name
cnameobjectSATCounty Name
incomeobjectSATPer Capita Annual Income in 2018
yearobjectSATTest Administration Academic Year
enrollint64SATEnrollment of Grade 12
num_tst_takrint64SATNumber of Test Takers of Grade 12
pct_tst_takrint64SATPercentage of Test Takers of Grade 12
avg_scr_engfloat64SATThe number of students meeting the Evidence-Based Reading & Writing (ERW)
pct_erw_benchmarkfloat64SATThe percent of students who met or exceeded the benchmark for Evidence-Based Reading & Writing (ERW)
num_math_benchmarkfloat64SATThe number of students who met or exceeded the benchmark for SAT Math test
pct_math_benchmarkfloat64SATThe percent of students who met or exceeded the benchmark for SAT Math test
tot_num_both_benchmarkfloat64SATThe total number of students who met the benchmark of both Evidence-Based Reading & Writing (ERW) and Math
pct_both_benchmarkfloat64SATThe percent of students who met the benchmark of both Evidence-Based Reading & Writing (ERW) and Math

Findings

The general trend of students taking SAT in G12 is descending from the AY 2017-18, with a significant consistent drop in every county in 2018-19.

Data show a negative trend in SAT performances over the three years analyzed. Also, students achieve higher scores in English Reading and Writing than in Math, but the negative trend described is equally affecting both sections of SAT.

As this project addresses San Mateo Union High on whether to adopt a free for all SAT policy, the project presents a series of analyses showing SAT performances in Districts that adopted the policy vs San Mateo.

  • The participation in San Mateo Union High is between 40 to 60% in the three years examined. Districts offering SAT for free reach peaks of higher participation around year 2, but the increase does not appear to be consistent, dropping almost everywhere in the AY 2018-19.
  • About 80% of students at San Mateo Union High have successfully met the benchmark over the examined period; in the districts offering the SAT for free performances are overall lower, and don’t appear to be increasing over time.

Conclusions

1. Free SAT is not increasing participation

SAT has been offered for free since 2016 by counties around the State and overall they don’t seem to be long-term, neither in terms of participation.

2. Free SAT does not seem to be improving performance

SAT has been offered for free since 2016 by counties around the State and overall they don’t seem to be long-term, neither in terms of performance.

3. Suggested Action: Math

SMUH has been performing above average in the State, but strengthening Math skills can significantly improve students’ success rate in SAT.

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