The 21st century knowledge economy demands a highly trained and skilled workforce. It is projected that 65% of all U.S. jobs will require some form of post-secondary education by the year 2020; 35% requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher, and 30% requiring an associate’s degree(1). Completion of post-secondary education leads to higher employment rates, with 5% of
college graduates reporting unemployment in 2012 compared to 12% of high school graduates(2).
Lifetime earnings also correspond to degree levels - a citizen with a high school diploma can expect to earn $973,000 over a lifetime while someone with an associate’s degree will earn $1.7 million, and an adult with a bachelor’s degree will earn $2.3 million over a lifetime(3).
In order to create a prepared and empowered workforce to build a stronger economy and improve the quality of life of our citizenry, we must ensure that every student has the opportunity to pursue a post-secondary education.
The College and Career Success Action Team chose to initially focus on post-secondary enrollment in the first 12 months of their work, with the understanding that post-secondary persistence and completion are also critical elements to build an educated workforce.
The team reviewed key data points pertaining to college enrollment and chose the following contributing indicators to focus on: PSAT completion in 10th and 11th grades, SAT completion in 12th grade, FAFSA completion, and successful college application completion.
The PSAT is a diagnostic tool for students, families, and schools, providing feedback on student performance as it relates to college and career readiness in three major areas: reading, writing, and mathematics. Students who take the PSAT are given an early exposure to the SAT format, receive information regarding their potential to succeed in AP courses and earn college credit in high school, can opt-in to receive free information about admissions and financial aid from colleges, are given access to online college planning tools, and may qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program and other programs that use PSAT scores. Nationally, students who take the PSAT in 10th and 11th grades on average score 189 points higher on the SAT than students who do not(4).
In looking at historical PSAT and SAT participation data, there was an uneven distribution of student participation. In most years, there was in-school administration of the PSAT - which is highly recommended to ensure all students can participate—and varying levels of SAT participation. The partnership, with support from the Lumina Foundation, invested in an in-school administration of the SAT to all seniors at Albany High School, and the District invested in in-school administration of the PSAT to both sophomores and juniors. On October 15, 2014, all sophomores, juniors, and seniors were given free access to the exams.
Overall, 500 more students took the PSAT or SAT in 2014/15 than in 2013/14. In both 2012/13 and 2013/14, 46% of SAT test takers were Black or Hispanic. In 2014, that percentage jumped to 61%, suggesting that the population granted access through universal administration was largely from a racial minority.
Consistent with national trends, students who took the PSAT prior to the SAT had an average score of 1439, while those who did not take the PSAT had an average score of 1128.
While increasing participation in PSAT and SAT testing is a first step to understanding how students are performing universally, the heavier lift is supporting to students to increase their scores, improving their eligibility to attend selective post-secondary institutions.
Since 2014 was the first year to have universal, in-school SAT testing, we can consider these results a baseline - a starting point against which we can measure progress each year.
Overall, average scores fell in each of the three subject areas. This may be explained by the universal testing opportunity, rather than a smaller group of students self-selecting to take the SAT. Based on predictive validity studies(5), the College Board has established the ready composite score of 1550 being a “college and career score.”