CollegeSpring’s first New York City programs are underway at 6 New York City high schools, and a recent score report released by the CollegeBoard highlighted the stark need for programs like CollegeSpring: the report showed that only 19% of Latino students and 14% of black students in New York achieved college-ready SAT scores.
CollegeSpring’s students are no exception. The average CollegeSpring student in New York scored 1106 out of 2400 on the first diagnostic SAT exam (CollegeSpring students take 4 practice SAT’s over the course of the program to gain familiarity with the structure of the test and to target academic content areas for improvement). For many of these students, CollegeSpring’s program will provide the push that moves them into the college-ready category. But for others, a college-ready SAT score, 1550 out of 2400, will remain out of reach even with significant score improvement.
These findings are discouraging, and point to deep systemic inequalities in education that must be addressed by educators at all levels. However, the 81% of Latino and 86% of black students in New York who are not labeled as college-ready should not be defined by this statistic. First, the CollegeBoard recommends against using the benchmark to evaluate individual students; it should be used to evaluate groups. Second, even for the many students who will not achieve the official benchmark, higher SAT scores still correlate with increased probabilities of success in college.
A college-ready SAT score in this context is the score that correlates with a 65% chance that students will achieve a B- GPA during the first year of college. The CollegeBoard’s benchmark is not a clear line below which students are incapable of succeeding in higher education; instrad, it is one point on a continuum that indicates students who may need additional support to thrive. Higher SAT scores along the continuum are related to higher probabilities of an academically successful freshman year, whether those gains fall above or below the benchmark. Higher SAT scores increase the probability that students will begin higher education at four-year colleges, which in itself makes students more likely to graduate. In the CUNY system, increases in SAT scores also allow incoming students to test out of remedial courses, further increasing odds of graduation.
Instead of assuming that students scoring below this benchmark have no chance of college success, CollegeSpring uses SAT preparation and college mentoring to increase students’ odds of admission to and matriculation at four-year schools that will be a good social and academic fit, since after freshman year those factors are more important than SAT scores in predicting college success. In addition to providing both classroom and small-group SAT preparation, CollegeSpring’s curriculum also includes pre-college coursework around college choice, applications, and financial aid, so that CollegeSpring students leverage their higher scores to enroll at schools where they will flourish.
For educators at all levels, the message should not be that students who are below the college-ready benchmark are bound to fail, but that with ongoing encouragement and support, they will be more likely to succeed.