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The Great Divide, Part Three

From the UFT Research Department:

Just 60 of New York City’s 404 High Schools Produce More Than Two-Thirds of the Students Who ‘Pass’ the SAT College Entrance Exam

The city announced with great fanfare last week that the number of high school seniors taking the SAT college entrance exam increased by 53 percent since 2002 and that SAT scores for New York City students increased eight points in the past year.

What these numbers mask is that even after 12 years of so-called reform, college access is available only to students in a small pocket of city high schools.

Sixty city high schools produced 70 percent of the students who scored a 480 or better on the reading portion of the SAT college entrance exam.

Fifty-five high schools accounted for 64 percent of the city’s students who scored at least 480 on the math portions of the college entrance exam.

The city’s remaining 343 high schools* produced the rest of the city’s college-ready graduates.

* Covers only general education high schools. Omits one high school where the student roster showed only one senior.


Low ‘passing’ score

The New York City Department of Education uses SAT scores of 480 in reading and math as one measure to determine if high school students will be able to handle college-level work. [See page 13.]

Unfortunately for New York City high school seniors, the City University of New York relies on an SAT math score of 500 for admission to its senior colleges, a score above what the DOE considers college-ready.

To provide some context for these numbers, Cornell and New York University’s 2013 freshman class had SAT scores of over 620 in both the reading and math portions of the SAT, while Harvard University’s entering freshmen scored over 700 in both those sections of the SAT. Only nine city schools had an average score of 620 or better in both subjects.


Average SAT score at two groups of city schools demonstrates wide gap

The divide between the top 60 high schools and the rest of the city’s high schools becomes even more pronounced when comparing the average SAT scores of the two groups.

The average SAT reading score in the top 60 high schools was 523, compared with 394 in the remaining high schools. In math, the average SAT score in the top 55 schools was 550, compared with 403 in the rest of the high schools.

The 100-plus-point gap between average SAT scores in the top and bottom high schools dwarfs the eight-point increase the DOE boasts as a sign of progress.


Selective schools outperform all others

Even among the top 60 schools, huge variations remain.

The percentage of students ‘passing’ the reading SAT in the 60 top-performing school ranges from 98 percent in the elite testing schools such as Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech and Bronx Science, down to 33 percent at Brooklyn’s Repertory Company High School for Theatre Arts and Manhattan’s Bedford Academy High School.

Only 16 of the city’s high schools had 80 percent or more of its students hitting or exceeding the DOE’s admittedly low target of 480 on the SAT reading exam. Even when the threshold is lowered to 50 percent or more of students hitting DOE’s target in both subjects, just 31 schools make the grade.

The majority of the truly high-performing high schools have dominated the top of the list for more than a decade.



This analysis was developed by using the DOE 2013 High School Progress Report Card data on SAT results. The UFT also used the DOE’s 2012 graduation data and school demographic data to estimate the size of each school’s June 2013 graduating cohort, because this information was not available on the DOE’s website.

The size of the 2013 graduating class was estimated using either the average size of a school’s 2012 graduating cohort or the 2013 demographic data for 12th grade enrollment, whichever was available.

The top 60 schools were derived by ranking the schools based on the percentage of students scoring a 480 on the SAT math and reading exams as shown on their 2013 Progress Report cards.

The SAT is voluntary and students who take it are self-selected and may not be indicative of the typical or average NYC student; therefore, there are no real comparisons between SAT performance and other tests, such as Regents exams.


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