SAT benchmark percentages slide for the second consecutive year

The percentage of Idaho juniors who met both benchmark scores on the SAT – a measure of college and career readiness – slid for the second year in a row, according to data the State Department of Education released on Tuesday. 

In 2022, 28.3% of juniors met both benchmarks on the SAT (for math and evidence-based reading and writing) – 0.8% lower than in 2021 and 3.7% lower than in 2020. Even amid pandemic-related school shutdowns in 2020, 90% of Idaho juniors still took the SAT. 

The benchmark percentages in math have fallen over the past two years as well. This year, 30.5% of students met the benchmark, 0.7% fewer than in 2021 and 2.5% fewer than in 2020. 

Benchmark percentages for evidence-based reading and writing showed a 0.1% increase from 2021. Scores from the last two years, however, were both more than 4% below the 58% of students who met the benchmark in 2020. 

The SDE characterized the new SAT scores as “holding steady” from the previous year in a Tuesday press release.

Sherri Ybarra, superintendent of public instruction, pointed out that many students are no longer required — by the state or by their university — to take college entrance exams.

“We’ve known for some time that many Idaho students do not prepare for the SAT because it is not essential to their post-high school plans,” Ybarra said. “And the priority placed on the test has declined further in recent years as universities in Idaho and elsewhere have stopped requiring college-entrance exams, and the State Board of Education dropped the exams as a graduation requirement this year.”

How Idaho schools and districts fared

There were some bright spots in the SDE’s report. Couer d’Alene Charter Academy had the highest rate in the state, just as it did in 2021, with nearly 90% of its students meeting both benchmarks. The following schools also had notably high percentages of students who met both benchmarks:

  • Renaissance High (West Ada)        77%
  • North Idaho Stem Charter             >76%
  • Meridian Tech. Charter                68%
  • Meridian Medical Arts Charter      67%

Among all Idaho districts and charter schools with at least 20 participating students, only 11 had 50 percent or more of their students meet both benchmarks.

Here are the percentages of juniors meeting both the English and math benchmark scores for select large districts:

  • Boise: 41.5%
  • Bonneville: 30.5%
  • Caldwell: 11.3%
  • Cassia County: 21.8%
  • Coeur d’Alene: 34.2%
  • Emmett: 27.8%
  • Idaho Falls: 26.5%
  • Jefferson County: 30.6%
  • Jerome: 9.9%
  • Kuna: 19.5%
  • Lakeland: 29.1%
  • Lewiston: 24.8%
  • Madison: 32.8%
  • Middleton: 31%
  • Moscow: 49.7%
  • Nampa: 17.3%
  • Oneida County: 28.6%
  • Pocatello-Chubbuck: 32%
  • Post Falls: 30.7%
  • Twin Falls: 24.9%
  • Vallivue: 20.3%
  • West Ada: 40.4%

The College Board establishes benchmarks “to help students and educators assess student progress toward college readiness from year to year.” According to its website, students who meet or exceed the benchmarks have a 75% chance of earning at least a C in a variety of general education first-semester college courses. It also notes that “students scoring below the SAT benchmarks can still be successful in college, especially with additional preparation and perseverance.”

Education leaders have been questioning the validity of college entrance exams, especially since the start of the pandemic.

Idaho Education News filed a public records request for the 2022 SAT data, but the SDE provided only partial information on Tuesday; raw SAT scores were not released. EdNews has requested that data and will report on it when it becomes available. 

Idaho Education News data analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this report.

Carly Flandro

Carly Flandro

Reporter Carly Flandro works in EdNews’ East Idaho bureau. A former high school English teacher, she writes about teaching, learning, diversity, and equity. You can follow Flandro on Twitter @idahoedcarly and send her news tips at [email protected].

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