High school graduates this year fared no better on the SAT college admission test than their predecessors in 2013, a stagnant result that exam overseers said should sound an alarm for the nation to get more students on track for college.
The average SAT score for the Class of 2014 was 1497, the College Board reported Tuesday, down a point from the year before. A perfect score, combining results for critical reading, math and writing, is 2400.
Also stagnant was the share of students who reached a combined score of 1550, which the New York-based organization considers a standard for college and career readiness: Forty-three percent of those who took the SAT scored at or above that mark.
“For a long time, institutions like ours have been reporting that too many students aren’t ready for college,” David Coleman, president and chief executive of the College Board, told reporters. “It’s time to do something about it.”
Tuesday’s report comes seven months after the College Board announced plans to revise the SAT, with less emphasis on fancy vocabulary and more on in-depth analysis of documents. In March 2016, the test will return to a perfect score that earlier generations will recognize: 1600. The changes will affect students who are now high school sophomores.
A revised version of the PSAT/NMSQT test, often taken before the SAT, is due for October 2015. The College Board wants to use those tests, as well as its Advanced Placement program, to spark a crusade for wider college access.
The majority of selective colleges use admission test scores to screen applicants, but a growing number do not. The SAT also has fallen to second in its market, with the Iowa-based ACT in recent years surpassing the SAT as the nation’s most widely used admission test. Both of those trends complicate the College Board’s challenge.
The College Board reported that 1.67 million students in the Class of 2014 took the SAT, up slightly from 1.66 million the year before. Those figures appear to include tens of thousands of international students.
In August, the organization that oversees the ACT reported that more than 1.84 million U.S. students in the Class of 2014 took that test. That was up nearly 3 percent from the year before.
The ACT’s edge is fueled in part by contracts with more than a dozen states to offer statewide testing to all 11th-grade students in public high schools. The SAT offers a similar program in Maine, Idaho, Delaware and the District of Columbia.
In the District, 4,832 students in the Class of 2014 took the SAT, up 21 percent. Their average score on the test was 1309 out of 2400, a drop of 91 points from 2013. Changes in participation rates often influence the exam’s scores.
In Virginia, SAT participation fell 1 percent, while the average score rose two points to 1530. In Maryland, SAT participation rose 3 percent, while the average score fell 15 points to 1468. The SAT is more widely used in those two states and the District than the ACT.
A Washington Post analysis of data from the Class of 2014 found that ACT usage rose in 36 states while SAT usage was up in 14 states and the District.
Asked about ACT’s lead in several states, Coleman told reporters: “It’s not that helpful to spread an exam broadly unless it changes the results. I might turn your question around and say we should ask others in our field, ‘If you’ve been doing this work so long in the way you have — how come we’re not seeing better and changing results?’ ”