It's a long one, but it unveils a lot of information I've never seen written up before. Everybody talks about how average SAT scores differ at colleges, but I review how they differ at high schools. It will be of most interest to people in Los Angeles County, but SoCal high schools have enough mythos attached to them -- Beverly Hills High, Hollywood High, Compton Centennial High, home of the Bloods gang -- that it should be interesting to everybody.
What LA Schools Portend: A New, Unequal, People
… Public discourse about test scores is also retarded by a technical problem. There is such a proliferation of school achievement tests across the 50 states (the NCLB refused to institute a national test), that few people understand what the various scores mean. The states' test scores are just not as familiar as SAT scores, which tens of millions of Americans understand at least roughly.
Recently, I stumbled upon a database on the LA Almanac website listing the average SAT scores at every Los Angeles County public high school. The results were quite startling. They say a lot about public policy—and, indeed, about the future prospects for America … because, perhaps more than anywhere else, our future is being test-driven in our most populous county, Los Angeles, with its 10 million residents. …
Thus, only about seven or eight percent of the students who start 9th grade in the LAUSD will break 1000 on the SAT (even under the easier scoring system adopted in 1995).
For all Los Angeles County public high school freshmen, only about ten percent will exceed 1000 by the time they leave high school.
What about private school students? Do they lighten this dismal picture? Even adding them in, it's unlikely that much more than 16 percent of all freshmen in America's most populous county will ultimately break 1000.
It's time for our elites to face up to the fact: millions of young people just aren't all that bright by the standards of the upper middle class. Passing laws based on the assumption that we live in Lake Wobegon where all the children are above average just makes life worse for kids on the left half of the bell curve… People who are below average in intelligence have enough problems as it is, without being persecuted further by unrealistic politicians.
Duke Helfand reported in the LA Times: "Now the Los Angeles school board has raised the bar again. By the time today's second-graders graduate from high school in 2016, most will have to meet the University of California's entry requirements, which will mean passing a third year of advanced math, such as algebra II …"
A large fraction of LA high school students should be working on finally mastering fractions and percentages, skills they'll actually use in their careers—not banging their heads against the Algebra II wall of abstraction until they drop out. [More]