TRAVERSE CITY — Last year’s SAT scores could indicate which local high schools are most likely to produce college-ready graduates as thousands of seniors earn diplomas and prepare for higher education.
College Board officials — the creators of the SAT — noted high school students are considered college- and career-ready when their section scores meet both math and evidence-based reading and writing benchmarks. Thousands of local seniors met those standards last year but some are more prepared than others.
Some local district officials said the scores should directly correlate with college preparedness. Others contended the SAT — administered last year for the first time to this year’s senior class — offers only a snapshot of a student’s college potential. Unfamiliarity with a relatively new test could play a factor as well.
“I wouldn’t say it determines a student’s future,” said Central High School Principal Jessie Houghton. “There are so many other variables … After taking that assessment they’re still with us for a full year. The power of the test isn’t what the results are but it’s what you can do with the results.”
Last year’s test was new to local schools. The Michigan Department of Education last January accepted a $17.1 million bid to effectively replace the ACT as the key metric colleges and universities use when considering student applications. Educators statewide prepared but still expressed concerns.
And most students floundered. Only about one-third of Michigan’s juniors met both benchmarks with an average score of 1001. Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District edged past statewide averages; about 38 percent of students met both benchmarks with an average score of 1028.6.
Results also varied between local districts. Leland Public School, Elk Rapids High School and Frankfort High School excelled as at least 50 percent of their students met the College Board’s standards. But Forest Area Schools and Buckley Community Schools had less than a quarter of their juniors score at or above the mark.
Mancelona High School charted the region’s lowest scores with only about one in 15 seniors meeting the College Board’s benchmarks for college readiness, according to MDE data. Principal Larry Rager said the SAT isn’t the “end-all-be-all” of determining college success.
“It’s certainly something we compare from year to year but I don’t think it can pigeon-hole a student into determining the rest of their lives,” he said. “I know more than 6.5 percent of that class is heading off to college and I know they’ll be excellent students.”
Officials at other districts noted college isn’t necessarily the designated pathway for their high school graduates anyway.
“I would say because it was so new, that percentage doesn’t indicate how truly ready our kids are,” said Lisa Magee, Principal at Forest Area Schools. “The number is certainly lower than I’d hoped it would be. But being a rural school, we have a lot of students with plans to go into trade skills too.”
Magee said her students — despite their eagerness to jump directly into a career — should be better prepared for college regardless. She wants to continue adjusting lesson plans to ensure future classes have a better understanding of what to expect on the SAT — Magee anticipates Forest Area’s rates to climb this year.
Officials at other local schools are more pleased with their results but still hesitant to boast. Elk Rapids High School’s average score was above 1100 — nearly 75 points higher than the regional average — but about half of this year’s graduating class failed to meet both reading and math benchmarks.
Superintendent Stephen Prissel said SAT scores are an indicator but not a determinant of student success. They can make or break a recent graduate’s chance at college acceptance but can also factor into their ability to obtain financial aid to pay for ever-climbing tuition once they arrive on campus.
“We’d be doing students a disservice if we didn’t prepare them specifically for the SAT,” Prissel added.
Results from this year’s SAT test are already in the hands of next year’s high school seniors but district officials have yet to receive cumulative data from the College Board or the MDE. A public release date has not been set but most officials anticipate results before the end of the month.
Visit record-eagle.com for updated data as it becomes available.
2015-16 SAT Results
(Headers: Entity Avg. Score % Met or Exceeded Benchmarks)
Michigan 1001 34.9%
TBAISD 1028.6 38.2%
Leland Public School 1137.4 63%
Elk Rapids High School 1103.2 54.8%
Frankfort High School 1063.8 50%
West Senior High School 1064 47.3%
Central High School 1059.2 41.5%
Grand Traverse Academy 1021.9 41.4%
Bellaire Middle/High School 1061.7 40%
Benzie Central Senior High School 1019.9 40%
Suttons Bay Senior High School 1024.9 39.5%
Glen Lake Jr./Sr. High School 1040.7 34.8%
Kingsley High School 988.5 33%
Kalkaska High School 987 31%
Forest Area High School 966.2 20.7%
Buckley Community Schools 960.3 20.6%
Mancelona High School 906.1 6.5%
Northport Public School N/A N/A
Alba Public School N/A N/A
Source: Michigan Department of Education/Center for Educational Performance and Information
Note: Districts in Northport and Alba tested fewer than 10 students last year. Data that small isn’t tracked by the MDE.