Poor students are less likely to attempt SAT

  • Eric Stevick<br>
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 9:57am

More Snohomish County high school graduates are heading off to college, but the portrait of that class remains a largely privileged one.

Students from well-off families with parents who have attended college themselves were the most likely to take the Scholastic Assessment Test for college admission and score well, according to a review of state and local results.

Among Snohomish County schools reporting test scores, 2,446 of last spring’s graduates took the SAT, up from 2,299 from the class of 2004 among the same schools. Schools serving largely middle- and upper-class families saw the most dramatic increases.

Students from the class of 2005 who took the SAT from Jackson High School scored an average 532 verbal and 549 math. These figures are close to the 2004 averages of 534 verbal and 550 math.

Participation in 2005 was up from 2004, from 66 to 77 percent. The percentage of participants was one of the highest in the county, while the percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches was one of the lowest, at 9 percent.

One of the most striking examples of the gap can be found in the Edmonds School District.

At Lynnwood High School, where more than one-third of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, only 52 out of 164 graduates, or 31.7 percent, took the SAT.

Four miles away at Edmonds-Woodway High School, where 14 percent of students get discounted lunches, more than three-quarters of graduates tested.

The gap between the two school’s overall scores was 65 points, when combining verbal and math averages.

“I was disappointed,” said David Golden, Lynnwood High School principal. “I think the problem is, at least on our part, we should be pushing the kids to leave every option open.”

Even if they believe they might be headed to community college or the work force, they should take the college admission exam in case they change their minds, he said. Counselors this year hope to drive home that message.

The SAT is the most popular college entrance test among Washington schools. And a good score can be a ticket into competitive colleges and universities nationwide.

Local schools generally top national averages for public school graduates, and many also beat the state averages.

Girls outnumber boys in taking the test – reflecting a national trend that sees more women in college – though boys overall post higher scores.

The number of racial minority students in Washington taking the SAT has crept up, but white students continue to make up nearly three-quarters of the pool and post the highest scores as a group.

“These results represent our continuing challenge, but more than that, they are a cause for celebration and accolades for the hard work of students and their great teachers,” state Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson said.

Countless factors are related to good scores, from how often students use a calculator to how much math and English they take. Taking the College Board’s PSAT, a practice test for the SAT, also helps.

But beyond getting good scores, the harder effort may be getting many students to take the test in the first place.

Statewide, 58 percent of 2005 graduates who took the SAT had parents with at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 2 percent whose parents did not even earn a high school diploma – the same rates as seven years ago.

There are several administrations of the SAT each year. Students can retake the test to get a higher score.

The College Board reports results by graduating class at the national and state levels. Schools and districts get individual student scores but must pay for information by graduating class.

Students graduating in 2006 take a newer version of the SAT.

The new SAT features higher-level math, additional reading passages and a new writing section with an essay.

Nearly 1.4 million students nationwide have taken the new version since it was first offered in March. The average writing score among those students was 516.

Eric Stevick and Melissa Slager write for The Herald in Everett. Enterprise writer Jennifer Aaby contributed to this report.

Talk to us

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.