July 12, 2021

Sue Kingery Woltanski: Using the SAT for School Grades? What Justifies that Baloney?

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Woltanski blogs at Accountabaloney, a blog specializing in keeping an eye on Florida education shenanigans. In a recent post, she takes a look at how Florida policy makers took a bad policy (issuing letter grades to schools) and figured out how to make it worse.

The FLDOE’s goal of using SAT/ACT scores to replace the 9th and 10th grade ELA FSA and Math end-of-course (EOC) scores in the school grade calculation was celebrated during their rollout of the new B.E.S.T. standards. They claimed that this would be a “big win” for parents, because the SAT/ACT were “valued by parents and students” and were better aligned to “college readiness.” They said the move to SAT/ACT was “an innovative Policy proposal” which would “streamline testing” and “align testing with values that Florida’s parents, teachers and students can embrace.”

At the time, we wrote about our concerns:

“Including SAT/ACT scores in the School Grade calculation is a bad idea, even IF the students will not need to meet a particular passing score on the SAT or ACT for graduation.

Both the SAT and ACT exams are now aligned to the Common Core State Standards, yet these “BEST” standards purport to eliminate Common Core from our state standards. How can we hold educators accountable for teaching one set of standards, by testing for another?

-SAT and ACT scores are highly correlated with family income and parents’ education attainment. Including such scores in the A-F school grade calculation will (continue to) favor schools serving high income, highly educated families.

Research supports the notion that these tests specifically disadvantage children of color, children from low-income families and children with disabilities; again, making them a poor choice for an accountability measure.

-There are also concerns regarding gender bias and these standardized tests: “Despite the fact that girls consistently perform better than boys in high school math classes, girls underperform boys in the math sections of these tests. For example, for SAT tests taken by the class of 2019, girls averaged 519 and boys averaged 537.”

Regardless of whether parents “value” their child’s SAT/ACT scores more or not, these tests are poor measurements for an accountability system that attaches high stakes, like teacher compensation, school funding and even mandated closure of schools, to a school grade calculation. Attaching high stakes accountability to these scores will further advance the disparities we see today, placing schools serving lower income populations, or those with more students with disabilities and/or students of color at a disadvantage in our flawed school grade calculation.”


The film, “the TEST and the ART of learning,” highlights all of these concerns, and then some. One of its major concerns is the inevitable effect on classroom instruction itself. These concerns were summarized in a 2018 report by the Achieve, Inc., an independent, nonprofit education reform organization, entitled “What Gets Tested Gets Taught: Cautions for Using College Admissions Tests in State Accountability Systems.”


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