The SAT and ACT are standardized tests that many colleges and universities in the United States require for their admissions process. This score is used along with other materials such as grade point average (GPA) and essay responses to determine whether or not a potential student will be accepted to the university.
The SAT has two sections of the test: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math (source). The ACT has 4 sections: English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science, with an additional optional writing section (source). They have different score ranges, which you can read more about on their websites or additional outside sources (a quick Google search will help you understand the scores for each test):
Standardized tests have long been a controversial topic for students, administrators, and legislators. Since the 1940’s, an increasing number of colleges have been using scores from students’ performances on tests like the SAT and the ACT as a measure for college readiness and aptitude (source). Supporters of these tests argue that these scores can be used as an objective measure to determine college admittance. Opponents of these tests claim that these tests are not accurate measures of students potential or ability and serve as an inequitable barrier to entry. Lately, more and more schools are opting to drop the SAT/ACT requirement for their Fall 2021 applications (read more about this here).
Education reform has been an ongoing issue in American politics for the past few decades and there has been a consistent increase in spending on education. However, there are complaints that the increased spending has only helped a select few rather than help all individuals evenly. This project will explore whether increased spending on education or SAT/ACT scores have a greater connection to high school graduation rates. By determining which has a greater effect, state governments can decide if it is better to keep increasing taxes to fund education or focus more on standardized testing.
Summary of Analysis
We looked at average ACT and SAT scores in each state as well as the participation rate for each test as well as public school spending across states and high school graduation rates in each state. To begin, we imported and cleaned the datasets used. States where test participation was under 80% were also removed in order to get a better idea of test scores for the entire student population of a state. After cleaning all our data, we move on to see if we can find any correlation between state spending, graduation rates and SAT/ACT scores.
|state||object||graduation||The specific state in the US.|
|2015-2016||int||graduation||The graduation rate for the class graduating in 2016.|
|2016-2017||int||graduation||The graduation rate for the class graduating in 2017.|
|2017-2018||int||graduation||The graduation rate for the class graduating in 2018.|
|state||object||cost||The specific state in the US.|
|2006-2018||int||cost||Each year has an individual column corresponding to the per pupil expenditures in US dollars for that year.|
|sum_2016||int||cost||The sum of the spending per student over a 10 year span from 2006-2016.|
|sum_2017||int||cost||The sum of the spending per student over a 10 year span from 2007-2017.|
|sum_2018||int||cost||The sum of the spending per student over a 10 year span from 2008-2018.|
|state||object||ACT||The specific state in the US.|
|participation||float||ACT||The percentage of students that took the test represented as a decimal.|
|english||float||ACT||The average score on the English section of the test (out of 36).|
|reading||float||ACT||The average score on the reading section of the test (out of 36).|
|science||float||ACT||The average score on the science section of the test (out of 36).|
|math||float||ACT||The average score on the math section of the test (out of 36).|
|compositite||float||ACT||The average score of all 4 sections of the test (out of 36).|
|state||object||SAT||The specific state in the US.|
|participation||float||SAT||The percentage of students that took the test represented as a decimal.|
|reading_writing||int||SAT||The average score on the evidence-based reading and writing section of the test (out of 800).|
|math||int||SAT||The average score on the math section of the test (out of 800).|
|total||int||SAT||The average score of the sum of the 2 sections of the test (out of 1600).|
Here we cannot see any relationship between spending and test scores, and we see an outlier where the largest spender has one of the lowest test scores.
Here we again see a similar story to the above plot where there is no relation between spending and graduation rate, with again the highest spender having the lowest graduation rate out of the entire group.
Here we can see a positive correlation between graduation rate and test score percent, where generally higher test scores mean a higher graduation rate.
After visualizing all the data, we can see that increased spending has no correlation to improved test scores or graduation rates, and in rare cases leads to decreased graduation rates and test scores. We do see that states with higher average test scores do tend to have higher graduation rates. This is a sign that states should be investigating what skills are necessary on these tests if they want to improve their graduation rates. It would be wise of state legislators to consult College Board and ACT to make programs to teach students the skills these tests require, rather than blindly spending money without a plan.
Another thing state legislators can do is make a certain score necessary in order to graduate high school such that even high school students that don’t plan on applying to college will try to get a higher score. This should improve average test scores in the state that correlates to the spending on education.