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N.J. students in low-income districts struggle on SATs


N.J. students in low-income districts struggle on SATs

No seniors at Paterson’s Eastside High School campus last year did well enough on the SATs to meet the College Board’s threshold for being “college ready.”

In Bergen County, 13 percent of Garfield High School seniors who took the SAT hit that benchmark, along with 18 percent of their counterparts atLyndhurst High School, according to the new School Performance Reports released Tuesday.

At a time when helping students become “college ready” is a mantra for New Jersey education officials, a startling share in many poor and moderate-income districts failed to meet the score deemed by the College Board to predict probable success in college — 1,550 points out of a possible 2,400.

That benchmark has been in the spotlight since Camden Schools Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard used it last month to say it hit him like a “kick in the stomach” to learn that only three students in his city tested as college-ready. Governor Christie jumped on the figure in his recent State of the State speech to argue for his education agenda, including merit pay for teachers and a longer academic day.

The College Board, which administers the SAT, says that students who hit the benchmark have a 65 percent or greater chance of earning at least a B-minus average in their freshman year of college, and are likely to get a degree. Studies show SAT scores are highly correlated with parents’ income and education level.

The SAT is much harder than the state’s graduation exam. Indeed, in 46 of the 71 public high schools in Bergen and Passaic counties, most of the seniors who took the SAT did not hit 1,550. The Bergen County Academies, a selective magnet, fared the best, with 98 percent of its students hitting that target or better.

Education Commissioner Chris Cerf said low SAT scores in many districts — among other indicators – showed the urgent need to raise the bar for learning. (Brody/The Record)