SAT scores rebound, but fewer Idaho students are ‘college ready’ amid pandemic

Idaho high school juniors, on average, slightly outperformed their pre-pandemic peers on a college entrance exam this year, but the share of students who met career- and college-readiness benchmarks slid.

The State Department of Education on Friday released some results from this spring’s SAT, and comparisons to 2019. The key results:

  • 53.2% of students met the evidence-based reading and writing (ERW) benchmark, down three percentage points from 2019.
  • 31.2% met the math benchmark, down 1.3 percentage points from 2019.
  • 29.1% met both benchmarks, down 1.7 percentage points.

The statewide average score inched up by about a percentile since 2019, despite the pandemic, reversing a downswing that began after a 2017 peak.

Scores came from the April 13 “SAT Day,” when 19,713 juniors took the test during the regular school day.

“We expected there would be learning loss because of pandemic disruptions in the school year and in the previous spring,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra said in a Friday news release.

Learning loss was more evident in the benchmark numbers, which reflected a larger number of students falling behind on The College Board’s measure of whether students are on track to be college-ready by graduation. Students who met those benchmarks appear to have pulled average scores up, but not above the average scores from 2017 or 2018.

Idaho students must take a college entrance exam to graduate high school, and juniors are able to take the SAT for free. SAT Day was canceled last year due to COVID-19. Idaho taxpayers invest about $1 million every year to provide the test to students.

The college entrance exam graduation requirement was waived for the 2020 and 2021 school years, but it is still in place for the class of 2022. The State Board will revisit the topic in August.

After EdNews filed a public records request for the SAT scores, the SDE released only partial numbers Friday, including the benchmark numbers but not raw test scores. The latter were provided Wednesday in response to a follow-up request.

How did districts do?

Among all school districts and charter schools where at least 20 students took the SAT, only nine had at least half their students meet both benchmarks. Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy had the highest rate in the state, with more than 90% of students meeting both benchmarks. The charter also boasted the highest average score in the state.

Elevate Academy had the lowest share of students, 9%, meeting both benchmarks, and the second-lowest average score ahead of Canyon-Owyhee School Service Agency in Wilder.

Here are the percentages of high school juniors who met the English and math benchmark scores, for select large districts:

Boise 41.6
Bonneville 30.4
Caldwell 9.6
Cassia County 21.9
Coeur d’Alene 35.7
Emmett 20.7
Idaho Falls 30.8
Jefferson County 32.6
Jerome 12.8
Kuna 24.6
Lakeland 31.1
Lewiston 31.8
Madison 38.6
Middleton 29.7
Moscow 52.3
Nampa 18.1
Oneida County 16.1
Pocatello-Chubbuck 32.5
Post Falls 34.4
Twin Falls 28.3
Vallivue 22.5
West Ada 36.0

SAT demographics

Here are the percentages of high school juniors who met the English and math benchmark scores, broken down by student subgroups:

All students 29.1
Boys 30.9
Girls 27.2
White 33.6
Hispanic 10.8
American Indian or Alaskan Native 9.6
Black/African American 12.1
Asian or Pacific Islander 45.8
Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander 25.0
Two or more races 29.7
Economically disadvantaged 14.8
Limited English proficiency 2.4
Students with disabilities 2.6
Foster students Less than 12.0
Homeless 9.4
Migrant 5.2
Military connected 32.7

Among student demographics, Asian or Pacific Islander students scored the highest, with 45.8% meeting both the ERW and match benchmarks. White students followed, with 33.6% meeting both benchmarks.

Limited English Proficiency students scored the lowest, with 2.4% meeting both benchmarks. Just ahead were students with disabilities, where 2.6% met both standards.

Top performers

Many top districts and charters in terms of SAT scores were repeat performers this year, like the Moscow School District and Coeur d’Alane Charter Academy, which have posted some of the highest scores in the state over the past half decade.

Here are this year’s top-10 (scored from 400-1600):

Coeur d’Alane Charter Academy 1273
North Idaho STEM Charter Academy 1231
Nezperce School District 1199
Victory Charter School 1167
North Star Charter School 1124
Liberty Charter School 1109
McCall-Donnelly School District 1107
Moscow School District 1092
Xavier Charter School 1090
Gem Prep: Online Charter School 1072

The state average this year was 980.

Idaho Education News data analyst Randy Schrader and reporter Blake Jones contributed to this report.

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