Remember how toddlers put their hands over their eyes and declare and that you can’t see them? Then they move their hands and scream with delight: Boo!
That’s what the state and the local school district are doing with student scores on the SAT, the test required by most colleges for admittance.
The test, taken nationally by 2.2 million students this year, is one of the few valid, unwavering tests that gives parents a clear reading of where their student is performing academically compared to those across the nation.
Which is why the state and Lake County school district try not to look.
Oh, you can get the results of the tests it if you ask, but you’ve got to know that data comparing local students nationwide exists. The scores aren’t posted on the district website, where they ought to be. The Florida Department of Education simply stopped posting them a couple years ago when the results dipped. No reason given.
Lake County schools said they don’t have school-by-school data. A request to the state last week took three days and a second prompting for an answer.
When you see local and statewide scores, however, it becomes clear why they are buried: the results are indeed, a boo-worthy horror show. Anyone with the smallest interest in education would gasp to see how poorly Florida students perform.
The perfect score is 1,600 on the test that is divided into math and reading parts. The 2019 average combined score nationally is 1059, according to results released in late September. Florida’s score is 999. Lake County’s is 956, almost 10% lower than the national average.
Only 23% of Lake’s test-takers met “benchmarks” in both parts, which means that those students have a 75% chance of earning a grade of C or higher in first-year college algebra, statistics, pre-calculus, calculus, history, literature, social science or writing courses.
The figures show that a grand total of 17 of every 100 Lake test-takers could get by in their first year of college. This is not a number designed to produce button-bursting pride.
Some 30 students scored between 1,400 and 1,600 on the test. Perhaps that is why the nearly 3,000 test-takers sent the vast majority of their scores to colleges inside Florida. Even top students are beginning to realize they can’t compete as successfully outside their home state.
All of Lake County’s public schools scored below the national and state average. The 11 test-takers at the Lake County Virtual school topped the state average of 999 with a score of 1105 and exceeded the national average of 1059.
Here are the school-by-school averages in order of performance: Lake Minneola High, 994; Tavares High, 980; East Ridge High, 971; Eustis High, 958; South Lake High, 953; Mount Dora High, 944; Umatilla High, 917; and Leesburg High, 911.
As usual, students whose parents have a higher level of education and those who speak only English do better than those whose families did not go to college and those who speak another language.
Asians top the list of high performers followed by students who identified as white. Females score slightly higher than males. And students who say they plan to study the physical sciences top the charts with the highest scores, followed by those who say they plan to study biology or biomedical science.
Education “experts” — the same ones who are directing Florida’s marvelous education system — claim that lots more students here are the taking the test than in previous years, and that tends to reduce the scores.
Students formerly had to pay the $49 fee, then sign up to take the test at a local school on a Saturday. Typically, only students truly interested in college would go to the trouble. Now, however, the test is given in school on a weekday and is free to students.
Interestingly, however, Lake County defies that common “wisdom” of adding non-college-bound students to the scores. As the largest district in Florida that gives all students free access to the test, scores have been rising slightly as more students took the test.
Emily Weiskopf, assistant superintendent for teaching, learning and leadership, said the PSAT test, which students take earlier, helps identify kids who might not have been thinking of going to college as having potential to obtain a degree. That has allowed the district to guide them to more difficult classes and has increased the SAT scores, administrators believe.
Still, what the state wants its education consumers to focus on are Florida Standards. There are literally pages of results online containing cheery numbers of students who are doing wonderfully.
Before Florida Standards was the High School Competency Test and the FCAT, both of which allowed the state to compare its students to other Florida students. Oh, our little darlings are so smart! (And they make us look brilliant, too!)
These Florida-only tests and results are typically the butt of jokes by educators elsewhere who tend to use valid, nationwide tests to evaluate student learning.
The state really, really wants to keep comparing its students to its students because the quality of Florida’s education doesn’t look nearly so bad when you do that. But tests such as the SAT burst that self-deluding Florida bubble.
Measuring how ready Florida students are for more education is increasingly important as it becomes clear that wage-earners can’t survive on jobs they can land with only a high-school diploma — unless they’re extraordinary people with the drive and ability to become entrepreneurs.