In the glass-half-full category on education, Florida’s high school students taking the SAT continue to improve and more minority students are taking the exam and heading to college.
Nevertheless, Florida still lags behind national averages, according to SAT results released on Monday. Florida students’ average scores in the reading, mathematics and writing portions of the SAT were 492, 492, and 476, respectively. The national averages for those three categories: 496, 514, and 488.
Florida’s Hispanic students, in particular, did better than Hispanics nationally, especially in critical reading. The mean score for the state’s Hispanics in reading was 29 points higher than the national group’s scores. In math, Florida Hispanic students scored 13 points higher than their counterparts nationwide. In writing, Hispanic students in the Sunshine State earned 20 points higher than others nationally.
Florida’s black students — African Americans, Haitians and other Caribbean students are in this category — also did better in reading, scoring seven points higher than their national counterparts.
Overall, Florida’s average reading and math scores were up by five points in each subject from last year for all students taking the SAT, and the average math score was up three points.
The SAT, as well as the ACT, are exams that universities and colleges use to gauge students’ preparation for college. Under former Gov. Jeb Bush’s education reforms, public schools were encouraged to enroll more minority students in higher level classes and to take the college exams.
There were about 2,700 fewer students statewide taking the SAT this year than in 2011, but the overall percentage of test-takers, at 66 percent of high-school seniors, is impressive. Even more impressive: Miami-Dade students, with a higher percentage than the state of students whose native language is not English, increased their scores even while having more seniors take the SAT.
Florida still has a long way to go, but year after year the scores have been inching upward, and the performance of minority students has improved exponentially. The statewide SAT scores are an indicator that no student should be shortchanged because of race, ethnicity or economic disadvantage.
The College Board, which oversees the SAT, has established a “benchmark” score that students should meet to be college ready, which statistically results in students who are likely to earn at least a B in courses and stay in school past their first year of college. Nationally, 43 percent achieved the college-ready benchmark, however. (No state tally was released by the College Board.)
In Florida, some 112,000 students took the SAT and 118,000 took the ACT, with some students taking both in an effort to present their best scores on their university applications. The higher the score the better chance to get into a top-tier school.
In the SAT report, College Board President Gaston Caperton warned: “Our nation’s future depends on the strength of our education system. When less than half of kids who want to go to college are prepared to do so, that system is failing. We must make education a national priority and deliver rigor to more students.”
Rigor should not be considered an insurmountable challenge. Students have shown they can be challenged to succeed in tougher courses, and educators should be rewarded for such efforts.
The glass is still half full on education reforms, but with persistence and drive, it can overflow with stellar results.