College board: Students who take core curriculum score higher

Here is an op-ed  by Kathryn Juric of the College Board on the coursework that students ought to be taking in high school. Juric is vice president of the College Board’s SAT Program and leads global program strategy for the SAT, which is administered annually to nearly three million students worldwide.

By Kathryn Juric

When it comes to education policy in the United States today, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: coursework matters.

As states move to implement the Common Core State Standards, the positive impact core course work and advanced study can have on college readiness is already evident in the SAT performance of recent high school graduates throughout Georgia and the nation.

According to the College Board’s 2012 SAT Report on College and Career Readiness, which was released this month, students who completed a core curriculum in high school did significantly better on the SAT than those who did not. A core curriculum is defined as four or more years of English, and at least three or more years of math, science, and social science or history.

Central to the report is the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark, which measures the academic preparedness of groups of students for higher education and beyond. Achieving the benchmark score of 1550 on the SAT is linked to a 65 percent likelihood of earning a B-minus average or higher during their freshman year of college, which in turn is linked to a strong likelihood of staying in – and graduating from – college within six years.

This year, 43 percent of all SAT takers achieved the benchmark, suggesting that more needs to be done to improve college readiness, even among college-bound students. The numbers are different however for those enrolled in a core curriculum. Forty-nine percent of SAT takers who completed a core curriculum achieved the benchmark, compared to only 30 percent of those who did not – nearly a 20-point improvement.

A similar result can be seen in the mean scores of Georgia’s SAT takers, where the 73 percent who completed a core curriculum earned an average SAT score of 1484 – a staggering 119 points higher than the average SAT score of Georgia students who did not complete core course work.

Beyond underscoring the need for all college-bound students to complete core course work, the report also illustrates the positive impact that access to honors/Advanced Placement courses can have on college readiness. For example, honors/AP math students in Georgia scored 209 points higher, on average, on the SAT.

But the only way to track what percentage of college-bound students is meeting the benchmark is to ensure they take the SAT in the first place, which is why the College Board has made a continuing effort to increase SAT participation, particularly among underserved minorities and low-income students. We have also intensified our efforts to expand access to and success in AP courses across the state.

In Georgia, 27 percent of SAT-takers in the class of 2012 took the test for free through the SAT Fee-Waiver Service. Nationwide, the College Board dedicated more than $44 million to SAT fee-waivers and related services this past school year.

Our collective effort to democratize access to higher education is paying dividends. More than 1.66 million students from the class of 2012 took the SAT, 45 percent of whom were minority students and 36 percent of whom are the first in their families to attend college. In Georgia, 47 percent of the state’s more than 73,000 SAT takers were minority students and 36 percent reported being first-generation college-goers.

Standardized educational assessments may not be exciting or glamorous, but when they are valid and well-designed, they can tell us a lot about the state of education – how well we are preparing our children for postsecondary success and what we can do better.

As the new SAT report shows, increasing core curriculum completion rates and expanding access to advanced course work to qualified students of all backgrounds is the key to increasing college readiness and completion – not just in Georgia, but across the nation.

–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

30 comments Add your comment


October 7th, 2012
8:14 am

So the question is, if the SAT indicates a student’s ability to function successfully in a post -secondary education setting (which I have never doubted) then what are we doing for the kids who are NOT moving on to college? The latest statistics I am aware of indicate 30% of future jobs will require a 4-year degree, 33% will require a 2-year degree and 36% will require a HS diploma.

That 36% is a large chunk of the population who is being pushed into coursework they may not need nor be capable of doing. With the current fiscal climate (but it began long before), principals are focusing so much on SAT scores, technical classes are being dropped from the curriculum in favor of “math enrichment”, “reading enrichment”, etc. type courses. Without these technical classes, which expose kids to careers & skills not requiring post-secondary education, a significant part of the population is not being served.

One of the loudest complaints we educators hear from industry is the recent crop of students having a poorly developed work-ethic. That is what is missing in current day HS curriculum which we lost when the “comprehensive high school” was replaced by the college prep factories we have now.

Refer to some of the articles on these web-sites,

Whirled Peas

October 7th, 2012
8:36 am

“among underserved minorities”. Who or what is an underserved minority? Who is supposed to be serving them and what are they supposed to be served? Those of us who speak regular English need an interpreter for this doublespeak.

HoneyFern School

October 7th, 2012
8:41 am

“College prep factories”- this is a funny name, considering that, according to latest SAT/ACT reports, only 43% of students who take SAT and 25% of students who take ACT are deemed “college-ready” based on their scores. The state average is an abysmal 1481 (plus or minus 10 pts; can’t remember exact score), and the percent of students who graduate within four years in GA is 60%.

This is the most ineffiicient, failing “factory system” ever.

But back to the topic. I don’t believe everyone wants to go to college or that everyone should, but this decision starts in pre-K by making sure all students have equal access to quality schools that are based on more than a test score. Until this happens, the rest of the debate is pointless.


October 7th, 2012
8:51 am

Once we start focusing on what best serves kids, from all walks of life, and not what perpetuates the system for the benefit of the insiders, we might start to develop real solutions to our issues. One thing seems sure. The monolithic public school system of my childhood is no longer able to meet the increasingly diverse needs of the population and likely never will again.


October 7th, 2012
9:06 am

So, students who are in the better classes do better on the SAT. Generally, students who are in the better classes are also better students (that’s how they got to the better classes).

The article implies that the “20 point improvement” from students who took the core curriculum vs. those who did not would be closed if more took the core curriculum. There might be a small improvement, but it’s more likely that the borderline students newly taking the core curriculum would have similar SAT scores to what they had before taking the core curriculum.

This wasn’t an op-ed, it was a press release from the college boards promoting the SAT as the best measure of high school students overall.


October 7th, 2012
9:18 am

@Crankee, why does it have to be College Prep or Vocational? If our goal is to prepare the students for life after high school, then everyone would benefit from a well-rounded curriculum.

I was fortunate to attend school in the 70s and was able to do just that. I’ve often said that I have used the Three W’s (welding, wiring and woodshop) far more often in my life than the “higher math”. The knowledge I learned in woodshop turned into a lifelong hobby and today I have a fully equiped workshop that would make Norm Abrams (New Yankee Workshop) proud.

The “Comprehensive” approach is a far better model, IMHO.


October 7th, 2012
10:00 am

@Lee “If our goal is to prepare the students for life after high school, then everyone would benefit from a well-rounded curriculum.”

You are right, of course. But something happened in the years between now and when you and I attended public school. More and more students have either been passed along or allowed to take something other than core courses. Introductory basket-weaving? Advanced navel-gazing? Basketball 101?

The SATs have taken a lot of heat in recent years. At least one study, which has been reported on in this paper, suggests that a high school GPA is a better indicator of college readiness and success than an SAT score. That just doesn’t jive with what I see every semester in the college classroom. Perhaps (and that is a very big PERHAPS) the Common Core State Standards will help.


October 7th, 2012
10:21 am

That’s a pretty big conclusion to have drawn from one study variable. Do we know what the differences in the children were prior to entering the core/non-core programs? I don’t see how one can conclude that a program made a difference in the ending point if we don’t have information on the starting point. It would be like if you started a runner wearing a red t-shirt on a track 200 meters ahead of a runner wearing a green t-shirt and then, when the red t-shirted runner won a 400 meter race, claimed that red t-shirts were the secret to winning races.

HS Math Teacher

October 7th, 2012
10:35 am

The folks who work in education, but don’t teach, have plenty of good advice for us who are in the trenches and do. Those few who have taught before probably did so back in the 80’s & 90’s, when common sense pretty much prevailed. I would bet that very, very few, if any, have ever tried to teach Math 3 to a classroom full of kids who, if given a choice, would have never chosen a “rigorous” pathway to a diploma. A good portion of these kids are not button-eyed little dolls sitting in desks – some are truants, bullies, gym rats with Ipods, bubble gum-smacking girls who roll their eyes everytime they’re told to open a textbook, and/or kids who’ve failed one or two previous math courses.

Let a few of the “experts” come to the schools with a little bit of diversity…and adversity, and try teaching for 170+ days. I would bet that the few who could make it that long would go running back to their little cushy edukrat jobs in the offices with a view.


October 7th, 2012
10:39 am

“Anyone can confirm how little the grading that results from examinations corresponds to the final useful work of people in life” ……..JEAN PIAGET

old teach

October 7th, 2012
11:21 am

I think that Georgia-before Math 123-had a math curriculum in place to allow any student to study an ability-matched sequence of courses. And the classes semigrouped themselves, which narrowed the range of ability levels within. (The main drawback became the students and/or parents who wanted to preserve the HOPE scholarship by sandbagging-taking easier math courses than they should have.) But as for the big picture…
Obviously, not all students need to go to college to be successful. And not all students have the ability to succeed in a true college curriculum. Many would be better served by exposure to vocational courses. Students who want to study agriculture, healthcare, mechanics, woodworking, electrical, welding, drafting, photography, etc. would be better served by a close partnership between the [comprehensive] high school and the area Technical College. The business community should be brought in as well, wherever possible.
But for this to be implemented, the notion that everyone should go to college must be changed. Dumbing down the curriculum from middle shool to college is not the answer. The answer lies in accepting the fact that success doesn’t rely on college only. I have taught students who felt more pride in rebuilding a small engine than succeeding at a math problem or english paper.

B. Killebrew

October 7th, 2012
12:02 pm

I actually 100% agree with Lee on something–9:18am post.

Comprehensive high school is the key. It is not “either or” (college-prep or vocational), but should be “both and” (comprehensive).

Another View

October 7th, 2012
12:39 pm

Hmmm…the author wants here private company to have more students taking a test so that said company can be the standard for judging college readiness. Sounds like cornering the market to me and increasing revenue.


October 7th, 2012
12:49 pm

@Lee & Bill: If you’ve followed the recent changes Dr. Barge has introduced, you’ll see that we no longer have an “either/or” situation. The core curriculum has become more comprehensive.

Students can no longer take the easy route of Math Money Management, Applied Geometry, and Algebra 1. Instead, everyone takes the same math courses… at least the 11th grade. Dr. Barge has introduced different options for the Math 4 requirement which is a good idea. Struggling students are allowed to take math support, which is a lifesaver for weaker math students.

There are still different levels in the English department and students who are in the lower levels are not prepared for college level work; however, they should be able to pass basic courses at the technical/vocational level.

Students, who do not plan to attend a university, are given some “wiggle room” on the fourth science credit. They can take a CTAE approved course as their fourth science credit. Once again, this option is usually delayed until their senior year when the student has a better idea of what their post-secondary goals.

Students are expected to complete a career pathway. The pathway consists of a minimum of three courses in an elective area. Most pathways, but not all, are vocational in nature.

So we do have a “both/and” curriculum.

Ron F.

October 7th, 2012
1:11 pm

teacher&mom: My school offers math support, which is great for the struggling kids. We’re also able to offer Lang. Arts support for ninth grade, which considering the writing demands of the common core, is really beneficial. I love teaching the support classes and helping the struggling kids learn to write a reasonable argumentive essay. I’m not sold 100% on common core, but it does resemble much more the way I taught at the beginning of my career when critical thinking was actually done and written about, not just put on a graphic organizer or a worksheet and forgotten. I think this will help SAT scores quite a bit in the coming years. We’ll see.

bootney farnsworth

October 7th, 2012
1:22 pm

coursework matters..?

well, duh. whoda thunk it?

HS Math Teacher

October 7th, 2012
1:59 pm

I think a lot of people have their heads too high in the clouds. Some of the same, and others ignore what happens in the “rest of GA”. You could divide every student population in any high school into thirds. The top third should be pushed to the max to learn as much as they can, as they will go on to study to be engineers, doctors, architects, lawyers, accountants, nurses, researchers, etc. The middle third are bright kids, but who don’t aspire to go away from home, and have the expensive, university experience. They would rather skip sitting in the wierd philosophy professor’s class, and learning about his twisted thoughts & distorted beliefs, and want to learn a high-tech skill, like electrical wiring, electronics, automotive repair, etc. Sure, these kids can be taught Math 3, which involves learning about the various functions that need to be understood if you have to read oscilloscopes that diagnose electrical systems. The bottom third of these kids will most likely go to manual labor, military, or incarceration. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is. I’ve taught at the same school for nearly 30 years, and have seen this pattern over and over. When I went to school in the dark ages, there was enough prevailing wisdom to have THREE diploma pathways: College Prep, Technical-Commercial, and General. You’ve got to have some “easier pathway” for them to get out of high school, or else, they’ll just pollute your classrooms. End the end, most of them just quit school. Why not go back to teaching them how to weld, how to lay brick, how to fix a leaky faucet, hot to rebuild a lawn mower engine?? You don’t need to know matrix algebra, how to write a conic equations of a non-origin centered graph, or how to graph logarithmic functions to be successful at these essential trades.

The only way you can really bring kids up from the bottom third, and have them succeed in rigorous high school courses is to end the practice of social promotion in the lower grades. Social promotion has been going on since the invention of a school house. It still is prevalent. Colleges don’t socially promote, military schools don’t socially promote, medical schools don’t socially promote, technical colleges don’t socially promote….but, us HS teachers are expected to educate everyone who has been, and perform miracles.

Career Pathways? How many different pathways of instruction do you think a small, rural school can afford to have? Twenty to maybe 27 teachers in the whole school…maybe 3 in each department. Oh, I forgot… the “rest of GA” doesn’t count, unless you’re on a campaign swing.

Attentive Parent/Invisible Serfs Collar

October 7th, 2012
1:59 pm

Two points, I think the College Board should point out that they hired one of the primary architects of CCSSI to be their incoming President at a munificent salary. I am sure he appreciates all this touting of his handiwork. I still find David Coleman’s speaking at Camp Snowball this summer to be relevant both to the CCSSI planned implementation around systems thinking. Plus Camp Snowball’s Sustainability push is showing up in the AP science reworks.

Second. College Ready and Career Ready are both defined terms that do not mean what you think. I wrote a post on Career Ready’s definition. It was residing in the CTE Pathways. is where I explained this new vision of college that rejects the transmission of knowledge. Georgia readers should pay attention to my references to the Lumina Foundation’s Diploma Qualifications Profile. When the USG announced it reorg in November 2011, they invited Lumina to the unveiling. Yikes!

Bootney-the College Board has begun actively gutting the nature of its AP courses to a tragic degree. This is not a surprise to me as I have copies of what they were pushing in the 90s go-around at national ed reform which was better known then as Outcomes Based Education. Tragic to read that the College Board viewed knowledge as something to be discouraged. When I went over the Frameworks for their World History rework, it appeared to have been written by historical illiterates. Turned out it was written by idealogues who hate the West and capitalism and wanted the AP course to trash capitalism as a danger to the environment. Communism was just a different system for economic organization that crossed international boundaries.

Come to think of it that view of world history would fit right in with the Camp Snowball mindset. Hmmm.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

October 7th, 2012
2:22 pm

High school students who read challenging materials, who perform challenging math operations and who write to challenging rubrics should be expected to score high on a test designed to measure their Reading, Math and Writing skills.

High SAT scores are a result of students’ practicing their Reading, Math and Writing skills in challenging contexts. Such scores are not the result of students’ high-SES but a correlate of them. High scores and high SES are related mathematically. But the relationship does not imply causation between them.

Rather, instead of the argument that SES “causes” SAT scores, a more plausible position would be: Parents’ academic skills are some of the more powerful causes of both students’ SES and the students’ Reading, Math and Writing skills-levels..


October 7th, 2012
3:23 pm

“You don’t need to know matrix algebra, how to write a conic equations of a non-origin centered graph, or how to graph logarithmic functions to be successful at these essential trades.”

You don’t need to know those things to be a successful C-suite executive, doctor, lawyer, accountant, or nurse either.

Truth in Moderation

October 7th, 2012
5:14 pm

If this is true, then only students who take the core curriculum should take the SAT. Unprepared students waste time and tax dollars, and are given a false hope. Georgia, who currently has over 80% participation rate in taking the SAT, would soar to the top of state rankings. This would bring prosperous citizens and investors to Georgia to take advantage of our high performing schools, low taxes, and cheap real-estate. THIS DECISION ALONE COULD TRANSFORM OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN ONE YEAR!


October 7th, 2012
5:42 pm

Horses who drink the water provided for them have considerably higher levels of hydration than horses who refuse to drink. This factoid brought to you by the people who manufacture horse hydration testing equipment.

The students who are not scoring very high on EoCTs, SATs, the ACT, GHSGTs, or life in general are the very same students who didn’t care to do homework, keep up with a textbook, come to class, or stay awake for more than 10 minutes in any given class period. The hard truth is that choices impact one’s future. A student who applies his self/her self in the worst high school in the nation will be more than prepared to exceed the national average SAT score.

It’s quite true that not all students need to go to college. It’s quite true that most students will never need to know woodworking. What high school is really for is to show that one can direct his mind to mundane and boring tasks with a successful outcome. I absolutely hated every math class I took with the exception of geometry. The fact that I still achieved an A in every class I took showed colleges and prospective employers that I could apply myself to succeed at something that might not fit my personal definition of “enjoyable.”

School is a measure of the flexibility of the mind, nothing more. I don’t remember most of the names and dates I learned in history classes, but I do know the general framework of world affairs for the last two centuries. I can’t immediately tell you the exact answer to 3.1765329865 divided by two, but I can immediately rule out multiple choice answers like a.) 2.1 or d.) 1.2 because I learned basic multiplication tables and didn’t whine about “where are the calculators?”. It’s amazing how many kids I work with CAN’T immediately rule out clearly incorrect answers. Sometimes it’s just a confused student who can be shown the way, most of the time it is a kid who thinks showing up with a pencil and some paper is a massive inconvenience.

College Ready Fluctuations

October 7th, 2012
5:56 pm

I think it is interesting how “college readiness” fluctuates
over time. Many universities seem to rely more on leadership
from College Board in determining what the mission and
standards for higher education should be for their university
than is necessary. If the goal of the SAT was to determine
“college readiness” , why not allow students the ability to
take one ,two ,or all three parts of the SAT within the four
hour period of time? After all, Most college students don’t
sit the the same room and take their English composition
and Calculus final back-to-back.

John Konop

October 7th, 2012
5:59 pm


Great post all,should read!


October 7th, 2012
5:59 pm

@MortalWombat, “It’s amazing how many kids I work with CAN’T immediately rule out clearly incorrect answers.”

And as equally amazing to me is how many of them end up in a college classroom. People shouldn’t let their sons and daughters grow up to be dimwits.


October 7th, 2012
6:58 pm

Does this even rate a “No DUH!” So, to recap, students who prepare themselves tend to do better on the SAT? I bet it is also true on the ACT.


October 7th, 2012
7:03 pm

Mortal Wombat, it is “himself,” a second grade CCGPS.


October 7th, 2012
10:01 pm

HoneyFern School
October 7th, 2012
8:41 am

I should have said “aspiring college prep factory.” By no means do I believe all kids are ready, willing and able to attend post secondary institutions coming out of GA HSs. The numbers you put out there underscore that. I should have been more specific by pointing out many principals/administrations aspire to be a “college prep factory” and, to that end, decisions they make to drop vocational elective classes do not serve those kids who are not going to move on to a 4-year institution. Absolutely it is inefficient!

October 7th, 2012
9:18 am

I didn’t say that. Sorry if I was unclear. I support true “comprehensive” HSs which provide vocational electives to all students should they choose. The current pathways are NOT a good concept since they require so much specialization. The state touts there will be over 100 different pathways offered across the state. THAT is overspecialization, a result of Sonny’s education epiphany. The HS should be offering more general coursework which would allow entry level skills for those wanting to enter (and maybe stay) at the ground floor of a vocation while at the same time serve as a foundation for entry into a technical school.

The move to more required college prep coursework takes away elective slots. Kids do not have real choice in taking/choosing electives when almost every slot in four years of HS is filled with a college prep course. Fail even one, and there is no room at all. The recent allowances for some technical electives to count as science (long overdue IMHO) is a step in the right direction, I hope it continues.

Atticus Joad

October 8th, 2012
8:29 am

What BS. This “core curriculum” is the minimum to graduate in GA. EVERY person who gets a diploma completes this.

Really amazed

October 8th, 2012
11:19 am

@ATTICUS JOAD, isn’t that the truth!