SAT scores in decline across Illinois, Chicago since 2017

SAT scores in decline across Illinois, Chicago since 2017

SAT scores are dropping for high school students in Illinois and Chicago. Here’s how Illinois’ 20 largest school districts compared to the state average in reading and math.

Illinois’ 11th grade students will again take the SAT in April, a measure of their reading and math abilities that tells the state how well it is educating high school students as well as how ready they are for college.

Statewide, there’s been a decline. In Chicago, the story is the same.

The 20 largest school districts are mainly in Chicago and its collar counties. Here’s a look at how students did statewide and how the largest 20 districts performed against the statewide average.

Statewide performance on the SAT

Illinois 11th grade students scored on average 486.4 on the reading portion of the SAT and 473.8 on math in spring 2022. This marked a nearly 10- and 13-point drop in reading and math since the previous academic year, and an 11- and 23-point drop since 2019, the last test year prior to the pandemic.

Since 2017, the first year in which Illinois used the SAT rather than the ACT to measure high school students’ academic progress, average SAT scores statewide have decreased each year.

Illinois bucked the national trend of decreased participation on the SAT, because Illinois requires all high school juniors to take the SAT to graduate from high school.

SAT scores in the 20 largest school districts in Illinois

Among Illinois’ 20 largest school districts based on 2022 enrollment, nine districts scored above the statewide average in reading on the SAT. In math, 10 scored higher than average.

Of those 20 districts, the highest performing was Naperville Community Unit School District 203, with an average reading score of 567.1 and 564.7 in math. Waukegan Community Unit School District 60 registered at the lowest with a reading score of 418.6 and math score of 402.4. Districtwide, nearly 70% of Waukegan’s student body is low-income, but just 15% of Naperville’s students classify as low-income.

Chicago Public Schools student performance on the SAT

Students in CPS scored below the statewide average on the SAT in 2022. The average reading score for CPS 11th grade students was 463.8 and the average math score was 448.8, nearly 23 points lower than the state average in reading and 25 points lower in math.

CPS students scored lower on average on the SAT in 2022 compared to the previous year. The 2022 average reading score was almost seven points lower than the 2021 score, while the average math score was 10 points lower. The drop is even more dramatic when compared to the final test year before the pandemic. Average SAT scores in CPS were eight points higher in reading and nearly 24 points higher in math in 2019 compared to 2022.

CPS 11th grade students have also experienced declines in their average SAT scores for reading and math since the implementation of the SAT as an assessment method in 2017.

In CPS, much like the rest of Illinois, the number of students who took the SAT in 2022 increased since 2019. This follows a dramatic drop in participation in 2021 when 1,688 fewer students took the SAT compared to 2019.

Scores decline post-pandemic

SAT scores have declined statewide and in each of the largest 20 districts since 2019, the last testing year before the pandemic. Statewide, the average SAT score in reading and math declined by 11 and 23 points, respectively. Only nine of the largest 20 school districts had smaller declines in students’ SAT reading and math scores compared to the statewide average.

Largest declines: The largest drop in reading came from Aurora East Unit School District 131, which experienced a 23-point drop in reading scores. As for math, Wheeling-Elk Grove Township High School District 214 took the biggest hit with a drop of over 33 points.

Smallest declines: The smallest decline in SAT reading scores happened in Aurora West Unit School District 129, with the average SAT reading score dropping by less than two points since 2019. Notably, the headquarters for the Aurora West and Aurora East districts – the districts with the smallest and largest reading score declines since 2019 – are little more than three miles apart, but their SAT scores are vastly different. In 2022, 11th grade students in West Aurora scored over 37 points higher on average than their neighbors in East Aurora on the reading section of the SAT.

Students in St. Charles Community Unit School District 303 experienced the smallest score drop in math since the pandemic, with the average score dropping less than 15 points since 2019.

The great divide: Naperville and Waukegan schools maintained their spots at the top and bottom of the pack. In 2022, the difference in reading scores between the two districts was over 148 points. In math, the difference was over 162 points.

Voters can impact school district decisions through upcoming school board elections

The consolidated election on April 4, 2023, will give voters a chance to elect their local school board members, who influence how high property tax bills rise and make other important decisions regarding the quality of education.

Here are a few things school board members influence:

  • Property taxes: Nearly two-thirds of property taxes go toward local school districts.
  • Keeping kids in school: Illinois students have been harmed by teacher strikes and school closures during the past several years. Average reading and math scores on the SAT have dropped by 11 and 23 points, respectively, since prior to the pandemic and associated school closures.
  • Keeping parents in the know: The best learning environment is a partnership between teachers and families. To create that, parents need to understand what their children are learning in the classroom so they can support their students’ educations.

More information on voting in 2023, including how to vote by mail, can be found here.

You can view your school district’s average SAT scores for reading and math in 2022 and 2019 below and see how your district’s average score matches up against the statewide average.

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