Spokane Community Indicators e-Newsletter


The Scholastic Aptitude Test, better known as the SAT, has generally been seen as one of the hallmarks of college readiness and a significant measure of high school achievement. But with participation decreasing and colleges moving towards alternative forms of assessment, the SAT may become less and less relevant to today's high school student, depending on their higher education goals.

Looking at the Average SAT Scores indicator for Spokane County, we see that 51.4% of high school seniors took the SAT during the 2015-2016 school year, increasing from 41.7% since the 2012-2013 school year. Their counterparts in the state, for which data are available only for the 2015-2016 school year, show a rate of 55.0%.

Changing the view of the graph by selecting the "City" option, we see the share of seniors who took the SAT during the 2012-2013 school year in the City of Spokane, the City of Spokane Valley, and the county (the combination of all 13 school districts in Spokane County) were all very closely bunched together, at 39.8%, 39.6%, and 41.7% respectively. (The first two geographies reflect School District 81 and the Central Valley school district, respectively.) For the most recent school year, each of three geographies sported considerably higher shares of high school senior SAT takers, and some separation in the shares is evident (64.6%, 43.8%, and 51.4% respectively).

The recent drop in participation may be due in part to some students and educational institutions relying less on the SAT and more on other forms of assessment.

"Many community colleges and trade schools seem to be shifting toward Directed Self-Placement, grade point averages, and high school to college course crosswalks," said Spokane Community College Testing & Assessment Program Support Supervisor Kris Christensen. "While I can't speak for SCC as a whole, my observation is that the SAT is redundant for most of our traditional students who are now taking Smarter Balanced."

"SAT scores can be used for English Placement. But currently, they are not used for math placement. Because we are an open enrollment college and have a large population of nontraditional students, the SAT is not used very often. Smarter Balanced is quickly eclipsing SAT for our traditional students," Christensen said.

While SCC has trended towards Smarter Balanced, Eastern Washington University still uses the SAT as one of the major components of its enrollment process and may eventually be incorporated into admission decisions.

"Currently we look at GPA, SAT, and ACT for admissions decisions, but as smarter balance becomes more common in Washington high schools we are looking into making the policy changes to incorporate it into admissions policy," said EWU Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management Dr. Neil Woolf.

During the 2015-2016 school year, the SAT was scored in three sections worth 200-800 points each, for a total of 2400 points possible. The scaled score from 200-800 is calculated based on the raw score from each section, the raw score is simply the number of correctly answered questions excluding unanswered or wrongly answered ones, based on a process the U.S. College board calls equating. According to the College Board, equating helps to allow equal test score comparison across different test versions and testing dates.

Looking at the scores for high school senior SAT takers during the 2015-2016 school year and directly comparing them to the 2012-2013 school year, Spokane County senior SAT takers scored: 493 in Math, down from 517 (state = 514 up from 508); 493 in Critical Reading, down from 510 (state = 494, down from 496); and 468 in Writing, down from 491 (state = 482, down from 488).

The "City" view of the graph shows high school senior SAT takers during the 2015-2016 school year in the City of Spokane scored 462 in Math, down from 505 since the 2012-2013 school year; 494 in Critical Reading, down from 496; and 447 in Writing, down from 485.

Overall, Spokane County's fluctuating participation rates and overall decreasing scores will not mean as much to community colleges as they have a higher share of non-traditional students, as well as using their own placement exams. But four-year universities, both local and across the U.S., still highly value SAT results as a standard assessment of prospective students. Alternatives to the SAT may become more popular, but they also appear they will become just another layer of the total assessment of the prospective student.

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