April 27, 2015

SAT Scores Ranked by Intended College Major Show Teachers Are Below Average

I was curious tonight so I began reading the 2010 College-Bound Seniors Total Group Profile Report (PDF), which includes data on 1.59 million college-bound students who took the SAT.  One of the charts, Table 25, interested me so I put the data into an Excel spreadsheet, created an aggregate column, and then ranked the SAT scores of various intended majors, splitting them down the middle into the above average and below average.  

Intended College Major SAT Scores for 2010

Click Image to Enlarge

Some of the results are to be expected.  It wouldn’t matter, particularly, what SAT score a culinary arts major earned because he or she may have extraordinary talent in the kitchen that doesn’t correlate with standardized math or reading comprehension.  It is a different type of intelligence and skill. 

The scariest revelation of all is the fact that the nation’s educators are below average as measured by preparation prior to entering college.  The people supposed to be teaching this exam aren’t doing well on it compared to others.  That’s horrifying.  That means the best and the brightest are not, as a whole, attracted to the field (there are always exceptions – I myself had some brilliant teachers and professors throughout my life to whom I am incalculably grateful).  But then again, nearly everyone has known the education system in this country is outdated and ineffective because it was designed for a post-industrial-revolution world that brought people off the farms and into the factories.  That world no longer exists.  The notion that children should be education by age instead of by individual merit when all children are not equal in all disciplines is absurd.  The college system works better.  

In specific terms, for 2010:

  • The mean Critical Reading score was 501.  Education majors scored 481.  
  • The mean Mathematics score was 516.  Education majors scored 486.
  • The mean Writing score was 492.  Education majors scored 477.

That is pathetic.  If anything, these results would lead me to believe that if you are a great teacher, you probably want to pull your hair out at the absurdity of the system and your colleagues.

  • Gilvus

    Fortunately, not all people who get an education degree become teachers. In fact, the best teachers I’ve had didn’t have education degrees! They were chemists, engineers, consultants, and journalists who got their teaching certifications later. Alternatively, they were professors who never stepped out of their field of expertise, but picked up teaching skills along the way.

    A teacher needs more patience than critical thinking skills when teaching the younger age levels.

  • Gilvus

    I could be wrong, but I think the copyright on your image is invalid unless you put a date after the ©.

    • Joshua Kennon

      Good eye!  I appreciate you pointing that out but the good news is, it doesn’t matter anymore, I just included it for link reference.  Here is the source from the United States Copyright Office: http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ03.pdf

      “U.S. law no longer requires the use of a copyright notice, although it is often 
      beneficial. Prior law did, however, contain such a requirement, and the use 
      of a notice is still relevant to the copyright status of older works. This circular 
      describes the copyright notice provisions enacted in the 1976 Copyright Act 
      (title 17, U.  S.Code), which took effect January 1, 1978, and the effect of the 1988 
      Berne Convention Implementation Act, which amended the law to make the 
      use of a copyright notice optional on copies of works published on and after 
      March 1, 1989. Specifications for the proper form and placement of the notice 
      are included.

      Works published before January 1, 1978, are governed by the previous copyright law. Under that law, if a work was published under the copyright owner’s 
      authority without a proper notice of copyright, all copyright protection for that 
      work was permanently lost in the United States. “

      • Gilvus

        Cool, thanks!

  • Tricia Drake

    This doesn’t surprise me.  “the best and the brightest are not, as a whole, attracted to the field” . . . not shocking, it is well known that teaching is a pretty thankless and underpaid job.  

    I don’t think being below average on test scores makes someone a bad teacher . . . in fact, someone who struggled to learn the material in the first place would have certain advantages when explaining the material to students, and would probably have more patience with struggling students.  Looking back on all my teachers, the best teachers had certain traits that are hard for me to pin point, but I’m not sure that exceptional intelligence was a critical trait.

  • http://www.facebook.com/irishrose8585 Coleen McGarry-mcdonald


    You need to look more closely at this data.  First of all, your comment that those who are supposed to teach the SAT skills score below average – that is if they majored in education. Many secondary teachers do not major in education, instead they major in their discipline. In fact many of my colleagues at the high school where I teach English were all English majors.  Now, if you look again at your data, you will note that English/Letters/Foreign Language/ Mathematics/ Science majors are actually in the top four or five groups. So, before you discount an entire profession, you might want to research how many secondary  teachers( specifically high school since that group more than any other group is responsible for preparing students for the SAT)  majored in their discipline and either minored in education to meet certification requirements or took the required classes needed to be certified. As a veteran educator of twenty six plus years, I can tell you that the teachers I have encountered who majored in their discipline often had much deeper content knowledge and critical thinking skills than those who were education majors with a focus on “history, or English or Science.”

    • K

      Coleen, you are right! My husband teaches Advanced Placement Calculus to high school students. He majored in Mathematics and sat right next to the engineering students. His minor was education. His ACT score was a 28. He is not an unusal case. He also is a fantastic teacher! There are many just like him!