Upfront

New research finds that 57 percent of 2012 SAT test takers did not score high enough to indicate likely success in college, according to the College Board, the organization that administers the test. Overall test scores declined from 2006 levels among nearly every demographic group, and reading scores hit a four-decade low, says College Board President Gaston Caperton. That, he says, should serve as "a call to action" to increase the rigor in America's schools.

A call to action is especially needed given new research that finds SAT scores do predict college success, even when controlling for socioeconomic status and other factors (Psychological Science, September). In the study, researchers examined data from 143,606 students at 110 colleges and universities collected by the College Board for 2006 — the first year of the revised SAT — as well as data from the University of California system from 1995 to 1997. They examined students' test scores, grade point averages in high school and the freshman year of college, and socioeconomic status (SES). The researchers found that even after controlling for family income and parents' education, both the SAT score and high school grades contributed to predicting freshman-year college performance.

The researchers also found that the college students' SES was similar to the SES of students who were applying to college, suggesting that low-SES students may be underrepresented in colleges because few apply.

"Our findings suggest that one remedy for under-representation of lower SES students can be found in addressing barriers to students' entering the admissions process," says Paul Sackett, PhD, the study's lead author and a psychology professor at the University of Minnesota.

—Amy Novotney