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College admissions test scores must improve

May 6, 2019 10:01 pm

If you believe in the accuracy of the Scholastic Aptitude Test as a guide for college admissions, then the Cairo-Durham Central School District and the Hudson City School District have some extra-credit assignments to complete.

Both finished on the list of the 50 lowest-scoring school districts in 2018 in upstate New York. The state Education Department released the data on SAT scores last week.

It’s safe to say that the districts could do better. Hudson tied the Windsor Central School District in Broome County for 28th lowest in upstate New York with an average SAT score of 1021. Cairo-Durham posted the 42nd lowest average SAT score with 1033. The statewide average in 2018 was 1068. The lowest-scoring district was the Syracuse City School System at 902. So, it could have been worse.

To its credit, Hudson is no longer a focus school, meaning it is not cited by the state Education Department as an underperforming district. The district’s state exam scores have actually improved, as has the overall graduation rate. On top of these virtues, Hudson instituted a 10-week program that prepares students to take the SATs.

Cairo-Durham began a similar program, Academic Intervention Services or AIS, for students who need help in math and writing. The high school has three levels of AIS and labs for writing skills, algebra and global studies. Students also have the opportunity to take practice tests online to prepare for the SAT and other standardized tests.

The changed view of the SAT, ACT and other college admissions tests is altering the landscape. Many parents facing high college costs and the watering-down of university degrees today believe the SAT is bunk. They believe the tests mean little in a changing world of service jobs, unskilled labor (where more money can be earned) and the perception that colleges push through all students merely to prove their worth to benefactors.

On the other hand, the SAT remains the calling card for college admissions, and the onus is on the schools to educate their students to the absolute best of their ability so college-bound students already have the skills they need to excel. Low-scoring schools are doing all they can, but for the sake of families who still believe an academic degree means something and for the sake of graduates who will be left behind in a smarter world, college admission test scores must improve.