High school seniors in Lawrence who took the SAT exams last year appeared to be better prepared for college than their peers in the rest of the country.
While the SAT exam is not nearly as popular as its competitor, the ACT test, in Kansas, new statistics show that students at Lawrence High School and Free State High School outscored the national average on the SATs, as they did on the ACT.
In Kansas, generally, average scores were higher than the national average, and have actually grown, with the biggest gains occurring in critical reading and math scores.
Nationwide, however, average SAT scores for the Class of 2013 were virtually unchanged from the previous year, with more than half of the students taking the exam falling below the benchmark for college readiness set by the College Board, the nonprofit corporation that administers the tests.
Nationwide, average scores on the SAT have remained relatively flat for the last five years, with only 43 percent of those taking the test meeting the college readiness benchmark.
"While some might see stagnant scores as no news, we at the College Board consider it a call to action," College Board President David Coleman said. "We must dramatically increase the number of students in K–12 who are prepared for college and careers.”
Class of 2013 Average SAT Scores ( .PDF )
College Board officials said the scores show a need for U.S. schools to adopt academically rigorous curricula and to expand access to honors and Advanced Placement courses, especially for minority students.
Kansas Average SAT scores, 2009-2013 ( .PDF )
Nationwide, the College Board said, 84 percent of the students who met the college readiness benchmark completed a core curriculum in high school, defined as four or more years of English and three or more years each of mathematics, natural science, and social science or history.
Well over half of those meeting the benchmark had taken at least one honors or AP course in English, math, science and social studies.
The report covers scores for all test-takers in the Class of 2013, regardless of what year they took the test. In Kansas, more than half of the students counted in the report — 933 out of 1,823 — last took the SAT in their junior year of high school.
In Lawrence, fewer than 17 percent of last year's graduating seniors at Lawrence High School and Free State High School took the SAT, with most local students choosing to take the ACT.
But the trends on the SAT scores were similar to those on the ACT, with Free State reporting higher average scores than Lawrence High, and both schools performing better than the national average.
Each of the two schools reported 58 students who graduated last year as having taken the SAT. The average scores at Free State were significantly higher across all categories than those at Lawrence High. Average scores from Free State also were above both the state and national averages.
At Lawrence High, the average SAT score was below the state average, but still higher than the national average.
The SAT exam consists of three main sections: critical reading, math and writing. Scores in each section are reported on a scale from 200 to 800.
The College Board says the “benchmark” for college readiness is a composite score of 1,550. Across a large population, the College Board says, that number is associated with a 65 percent likelihood of earning a first-year grade point average in college of B- or higher.
However, College Board officials caution that the benchmark number is only useful for looking at large populations. Because of large variation in participation rates across states, that number does not translate to the state or local level as an indicator of future performance, officials said.
Among the other notable trends on the 2013 SAT report:
• There were wide gaps in both the participation rate and the average scores between whites, blacks and Hispanics. Both nationally and in Kansas, average scores for blacks and Hispanics were significantly lower than for whites.
• Students from wealthy and middle-income families had higher average scores than students from lower-income families.
• Curriculum matters. Students who take four or more units of English language arts and math during high school generally have higher SAT scores.