or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Reference Question of the Week – 6/12/11

   June 18th, 2011 Brian Herzog

SAT score reportOne afternoon, three high school kids came up to the desk and asked if they could use one of the study rooms. I set them up, and then about a half hour later they came back with this question:

Do you have a book with SAT scores by town for all of Massachusetts?

I didn't think we would have anything in print with scores down to the town level, so I told them I'd search online. They said they had been and couldn't find anything - I told them I'd try anyway, and I'd come get them if I found something (said the librarian, with confidence).

The first place I went was the MA Department of Education website, but a search for SAT scores didn't provide statistics, just news articles about trends.

Next I tried a general web search for SAT scores by town Massachusetts, which did produce a Boston Globe article with scores by schools from 2006. Since this proved such data was available, I thought surely the DOE website must have something.

So I searched again limiting to site:doe.mass.edu (actually, at first I just typed in .gov, but it turns out the DOE website is a .edu - huh), and found the exact same Boston Globe data on the DOE website - plus data from previous years.

It always bugs me when Google's site: limiter search works better than a website's own native search, but at least I found something.

And finally, I searched around CollegeBoard.com to see if they had breakdowns of SAT scores. All I could find there were national percentile tables, but that seems like it might be useful, too.

I went to the study room to tell the kids what I found, and they were pretty happy. Of course, since everything I found was online, the only real way to get it to them was to get the email address of one of the girls in the group and email her the URLs - which seems a little awkward to me, but it worked well enough in this case.

This was the email I sent them...

From the Department of Education's website:

The same table a little easier to read from Boston.com:

And if you need general statistics on SAT test takers overall, that's
on the SAT website:

Let me know if you guys need anything else.

They stayed in the room for an hour or so more, and stopped by the desk to thank me on the way out. How nice.

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