CRI News

DE Schools Look Bad vs. Other States:  SAT testing needs to be optional
By Dr. Tanya Hettler, Ph.D., Director 
Center for Educational Excellence
March 31, 2022 


Since it became a requirement in 2016 that all high school juniors in the state take the SAT, Delaware students have placed last or nearly last in the country on the SAT test every year.



Governor Carney and Delaware legislators, please change the law to have participation in the SAT test be optional. By doing this, Delaware's ranking will move up so that our state no longer ranks at the bottom of the country in SAT scores. There will still be much more to do to further improve our education scores, but this is a simple change that can be implemented quickly. 


Delaware is one of the eight states that still require 100% of high school juniors to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test aka SAT. If everyone is required to take the SAT test, a state's SAT scores will naturally be lower than if just the motivated college-bound students take the test. 


An unintended consequence of mandating the SAT is that it makes Delaware schools look worse than they are. If young adults, young professionals, or younger families with children look at these stats as part of their decision-making on where to live, they would have a big reason not to locate or start a business in Delaware.


Map: The darker color states have the highest scores, and the lighter color states have the lowest scores. Delaware is white.


(Map Source: The Scholarship Institute-2021)


BACKGROUND:  The SAT is taken nationally by high school juniors planning on going to college. For decades, the SAT was a required element on a college application. However, many colleges and universities have eliminated the SAT test as a requirement in recent years. They argue that the test is biased against minorities and poor applicants. Today over 1,000 U.S colleges no longer require the SAT test.


Delaware students have been performing at the bottom of the state rankings on the SAT over the past several years. One reason why Delaware students do so poorly on the SAT is because of a Delaware state law that was passed in 2016 mandating that all juniors must take the test, whether or not they are interested in attending college.


According to a recent report by OnToCollege, among the eight states (CO, CT, DE, IL, MI, NH, RI, and WV) that require 100% participation in the SAT, only Rhode Island had 100% of students actually taking the test, followed by second-highest Delaware at 96%. The third highest at 91% participation was a tie between Washington DC and Idaho, which do not require 100% participation in the SAT. The remaining six states (CO, CT, IL, MI, NH, and WV) requiring the SAT had fewer students taking the test- ranging from 45% to 81%.


The Scholarship Institute released a 2021 report of SAT scores for all states. The results were poor for the eight states that required 100% participation in the SAT. Their rankings fell between 29th and 43rd - with Delaware ranking 43rd!


However, we can't just blame the 100% participation in the SAT for Delaware's poor SAT scores. We must also look at the poor test results reported by NAEP.


In the latest pre-pandemic report (2019) released by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) showed that only 39% of Delaware fourth-graders were proficient in math, and 33% were proficient in reading. In eighth grade of the same year, only 29% of Delaware students were proficient in math, and 31% were proficient in reading.


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