Surprise, Surprise. Alabama Beats Massachusetts on SAT Scores.

Since Governor Bentley loves to trot out NAEP scores to tell us all how bad our schools are and how great they are in Massachusetts we decided to look at other measurements often used to get a handle on school performance.

We came up with the 2015 SAT scores that you can find here.

There sits Alabama–not in last place–but actually in 23rd.

And guess who has lower SAT scores than we do?  Massachusetts.  In fact, Alabama has better scores than New York, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.  All of New England.

Among southern states, we did better than South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

The College Board, a non-profit with 6,000 education institutions as members that started in 1900, administers the SAT.  And they caution that too much emphasis should not be placed on state by state comparisons because of the wide difference of how many students take the test in each state.

Their cautions echo those that should be applied to any comparison of any test.  So we advice reviewing these numbers with a grain of salt.  However, as long as politicians are intent on cherry-picking numbers that suit their agenda, it is only fair to point out other numbers that tell an entirely different story.



7 Responses to Surprise, Surprise. Alabama Beats Massachusetts on SAT Scores.

  1. It would be worth noting that the link provided notes SAT average scores of 1616 for Alabama (out of 2400, the old measurement range). Additionally, this is from a pool of appx 3000 students for the class of 2015 (so this test was likely taken 2-3 years ago). In general, better students in Alabama will take the SAT in hopes of scores for schools that accept the SAT instead of ACT – usually in the Northeast or Far West. Ultimately, the Alabama score is based on a small pool of “better” students – who still averaged the equivalent of an ACT 23 across the board.

  2. You are correct which is why I put the last two paragraphs in this post. And you help make the larger point that is you should be careful when trying to tie up the quality of education in neat little numerical packages. If the governor can cherry-pick NAEP scores and take them out of context to make Alabama schools look bad, he, and others, should remember that this cuts both ways.

  3. Larry, while I could not locate the exact percentage for 2015, the percentage of Alabama high school students taking the SAT in 2014 was only 7%. For Massachusetts the percentage was 84%. ( Dare I say if 84% of Alabama high schoolers took the SAT then Alabama’s performance would have been poorer.

    The differential in SAT percentages between states has a lot to do with the cost of the SAT, the college requirement for these scores, and the fact Alabama’s Community Colleges do not require even the ACT. (Students can take the COMPASS exam to determine their remedial placement.) However, Alabama is now administering the ACT to all 11th graders to determine this knowledge base line. Perhaps you should compare the ACT statistics between the two states for a fairer comparison.

    Finally, if I had the deviation in SAT composite scores between the two states, I could calculate if indeed there was a statistical difference between the two average values. Without this value, and the number of SAT test takers, one cannot conclude there is indeed a valid statistical difference between only the averages. Provide me with those values and I will be able to tell you if there is or is not a valid statistical difference between the two states composite values.

  4. Please read my reply just below. My larger point is that whatever your position, you can probably find some numbers to support it. So if the governor is going to take NAEP scores out of context to prove his point, turnabout is fair play.

  5. Apparently Larry J. and David don’t see that their arguments were already made by the author. That might cause a deduction on the Reading portion of a standardized test. MA funding per student is approximately 2X the expenditures in Alabama, but I don’t think there test scores are TWICE as high, even though I am sure they are significantly better.As Larry Lee points out, it just depend on which cherry tree you want to pick to make your point.

  6. A view from the ACT side of the fence…

    MORE STUDENTS TAKING ACT EXAM, BUT SCORES DIP: Overall achievement among high school graduates who took the ACT college readiness exam declined with this year’s graduating class, according to data out today from the testing service. The number of students meeting ACT’s college readiness benchmark across subjects dipped from 28 percent last year to 26 percent this year. But ACT leaders say the results are a reflection of a larger pool of test-takers: more high school graduates, from a wider range of academic achievement levels, are taking the ACT than ever before. Last year, 64 percent of graduates took the ACT, up from 59 percent the year before. See the full report:

    The differential in the AL and MA composite and benchmark numbers are pretty apparent, regardless of NAEP. This is not “cherry picking”.

    % Tested 100% 28% 64%
    Composite 19.1% 24.8% 20.8%

    % Meeting Benchmark for:
    English 51% 85% 61%
    Reading 34% 71% 44%
    Math 23% 74% 41%
    Science 24% 61% 36%

  7. Thanks. You are making my original point perfectly. Which simply was that whichever side of the fence you happen to be on, you can find numbers to support your position. Consequently basing too many decisions about education based on test scores alone leaves a lot to be desired. A couple day ago you posted below about how SAT scores are impacted by how many kids in a state take them. A good and valid point. I would likewise point out that while 100% of Alabama students were tested with ACT, only 28 percent of students in Massachusetts did. Again, this impacts final results.