Expanding Opportunity With a College and Career Readiness System

This time of year, your students are preparing for finals and summer break. Some of them have responded to acceptance letters and are getting ready for the shift from high school to college. Others haven’t made a choice and are not sure what their future will look like. What else can you and your staff do to put more students on the path to college and help them to be ready when they get there? Building a college and career readiness system using the SAT Suite of Assessments, Pre-AP, and the AP Program is a start.

Measuring Student Readiness

Students want to know whether they can be successful in college when they are deciding whether that path is right for them. One way to measure student readiness is through annual assessments that provide feedback on college readiness. The SAT Suite of Assessments (SAT, PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 10, PSAT 8/9) provides grade-level benchmarks on vertically scaled assessments, helping students and educators measure and monitor college readiness from eighth to 12th grade. Students can take a grade-​appropriate assessment each year and understand whether they have met the benchmark and are on track for college readiness. The assessments reflect what students are already learning in classrooms and provide educators with detailed information they need to help students improve over time. “At Sandusky Junior/Senior High School [in Sandusky, MI], we make full use of the rich resources associated with the SAT Suite of Assessments to inform our curricular and instructional shifts from year to year and, in conjunction with Khan Academy resources, we use the data to help students individualize their remediation and progress,” says Principal Steve Carlson.

When you know how students are performing, you and your staff can implement reward systems and intervention strategies to recognize performance, bolster skills, and improve outcomes. You can arrange intervention groups, tutoring in school and after school, and use scaffolding strategies in instruction.

Strengthen Student Skills

Students need to be exposed to challenging courses in high school. Begin to build college readiness skills in ninth grade by offering Pre-AP courses to all students. The Pre-AP Program offers consistent, high standards in focused courses that help build, strengthen, and reinforce students’ knowledge and skills. The engaging resources, meaningful feedback, and effective practice built into the Pre-AP courses help students to build and master content knowledge and skills they’ll use on the SAT Suite and in college-level coursework.

One advantage of using the SAT Suite of Assessments is that the program gives you access to official SAT practice on Khan Academy—a free program to help students build college and career readiness skills. It uses students’ scores from PSAT-related assessments to develop a personalized practice program focused on the skills that each student needs to improve. Through interactive problems, video lessons, instant essay feedback, and personalized study plans, students build those skills most important for success in college. A study of 250,000 students from the class of 2017 showed that a little practice goes a long way—regardless of gender, race, income, or high school GPA, 20 hours on Khan Academy was associated with an average 115-point increase from the PSAT/NMSQT to the SAT (compared with an average 60-point increase for those who did not practice).

Unlock College-Level Coursework

Understanding student performance with the SAT Suite lets you know who is exceeding the benchmarks and may be ready for more challenging work. Some of your students may have a good idea about where they want to go to college and what they want to do for a career. These students will likely sign up for advanced courses. Other students are less sure of their abilities and their desires. They may be wary of advanced coursework. You can help all your students understand the AP courses in which they are likely to be successful using the College Board’s AP Potential tool.

AP Potential uses scores from the SAT Suite of Assessments to determine on which AP exams students are likely to score a 3 or higher. It’s a research-driven, free, web-based tool that will help you identify AP students and choose the AP courses that interest them. AP Potential is rooted in a long line of research showing that PSAT/NMSQT scores—and by extension SAT scores—predict performance on specific AP Exams, often with more accuracy than other traditional methods. Educators across the country report that when their students view their PSAT-​related assessment results and see the AP courses in which they are likely to be successful, it helps them develop confidence. Educators use these results to encourage students who are reluctant to try advanced coursework. They also get information about where there is untapped potential and then add the AP courses in which many students are showing a likelihood of success to the master schedule.

Tie It All Together

When students take AP courses, they are doing college-level work to earn college credit while in high school. At the same time, they’re also using the skills that are assessed on the SAT. The SAT was redesigned in 2016 to ensure it assessed the knowledge and skills that mattered most for success in college. These skills include algebra, statistics, recognizing vocabulary in context, and understanding and using evidence. The SAT is accepted at all U.S. colleges and universities and is often used for more than admission—it also opens opportunities for scholarships.

Some students don’t take the SAT, however, because it is administered on Saturday and it requires transportation to a different school or site, or it may cause them to miss work or family obligations. You can expand opportunity for your students by offering the SAT on a school day in your school. “SAT School Day helps move the culture of many of our schools from minimums and remediation to a college-going culture—an environment where children dream,” says Sharon Meng, assistant superintendent of the Fort Worth Independent School District in Fort Worth, TX. When students test in their own school during the school day, it’s more convenient, they are more comfortable in familiar surroundings, and they test with confidence. Many find their results tell them they can get into and be successful in college; they see their futures in a new light.


Martha Morris is director of SAT Suite PD Implementation in the College Readiness Assessments division at College Board.


Sidebar: Making It Work

Building a College and Career Readiness System

There are multiple ways to expand opportunities for all of your students by building a college and career readiness system in your school:

  • Providing students with information to measure and monitor college readiness through the SAT Suite of Assessments lets them know where they are and what they need to work on. It also gives them access to tools for building skills through official SAT practice on Khan Academy.
  • Offering pre-AP courses as your foundational ninth-grade courses builds student skills and prepares them for advanced coursework.
  • Using results from the assessments to identify and expand opportunities for AP courses using the AP Potential tool helps students develop confidence and earn credit for college.
  • Offering the SAT on a school day improves access to college, removes barriers, builds college aspiration, and gets students thinking about their future and what they plan to do when they graduate from high school.

Doing these things as a system that works together and fosters student growth and access will make it easier to help students navigate a path through high school, college, and their future career. It will enable students to take ownership of their learning and achievement and give them the opportunity and encouragement they need to go to college. To learn more, visit www.collegeboard.org.