National News

Number of Students Taking the SAT Jumped by More Than Half, City Says

Posted January 11, 2018 11:26 p.m. EST

NEW YORK — The number of New York City public school students taking the SATs shot up last year, after the city offered the test free during the school day.

The city’s education department said that 61,800 high school juniors took the test last year, a 51 percent increase from the year before.

With its program, which gave all juniors the chance to take the free test last spring, New York City has become part of a movement to widen the pool of students taking the SAT or its competitor, the ACT. Kentucky and Wisconsin offer the ACT to all juniors in high school. The idea is that by making these tests a default, more students will participate. Traditionally, students would pay for the test and take it on a weekend.

“For too many of our kids, the SAT, which they need to go to college, was something they had never even heard of,” said the schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, standing in The Hamilton Grange School, a middle school in Manhattan, wearing a gray and purple New York University sweatshirt. “We should not be making this difficult. We should be making this as easy as possible.”

Phil Weinberg, the deputy chancellor whom Fariña credited as the person responsible for the initiative, said the city paid about $2.2 million to make the SAT free to every student who wanted to take it — Fariña said that even some students at the Rikers Island jail complex participated last year. Students signing up for the SAT themselves would pay $46, though those from low-income families can get the fee waived; the city pays a discounted rate of $36, a department spokesman said.

Fariña described the initiative as one way to help close the pernicious achievement gap between black and Hispanic students and their white and Asian peers. Last year, the participation gap on the college tests between those groups narrowed. Nearly 75 percent of black juniors took the SAT last year, the city said, up from 47 percent the year before. Eighty-three percent of white juniors took the test last year as did 89 percent of Asian juniors.

But there remained a divide in how they performed. Black juniors scored an average 449 points on the math, 100 points lower than their white peers. Asian students outscored both groups with an average of 589.

Citywide, juniors scored an average of 984 on the test, out of a possible score of 1600.