New State expectations for SAT essays set to help improve student writing

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) will start using a “cut score” that includes State expectations for the essay portion of the SAT for the first time. A cut score is the minimum score required for performance at each State expectation level. The essay cut scores are expected to help educators further enhance student writing.

The essay cut score was researched and determined as a collaborative effort among the Maine DOE, Maine educators, technical support from assessment experts, the Delaware Department of Education and approval by Maine’s Technical Advisory Committee (TAC).

While essay scores have previously been reported to the State, no expectation has been provided for satisfactory performance until now. Starting in 2018, the SAT essay score will have a designation of “Meets Expectations” or “Does Not Meet Expectations.” There are no changes to the State expectations for student performance in the SAT mathematics and reading score metrics.

In order to meet expectations for the essay cut score, students must score at least 3 out of 8 points on each of the three sub scores, and they must achieve an overall essay score of at least 13. Schools and districts will be provided with data that includes the percentage of students that meet the SAT expectation.

In addition to providing school officials with a measurement of the over-all student achievement level in writing, the new essay cut scores will also provide educators with an opportunity to seek improvement in teaching students analytical writing techniques.

While the goal may be a challenge for some Maine students, the Maine DOE is eager to assist educators in helping students achieve these expectations through professional development opportunities. A set of workshops took place in the fall of 2017 and materials are available on the Maine DOE Website. For questions or to discuss future professional development opportunities contact Morgan Dunton, English Language Arts Specialist at or (207) 624-6625.

The SAT essay cut scores will also be one of the factors that contribute to performance in the federal Every Students Succeeds Act Accountability System. For more information about ESSA contact Chelsea Fortin-Trimble, ESEA Federal Programs & Title I Director at or (207)-624-6815.

For more information about Maine Education Assessments including the SATs contact Andrew Hudacs, Director of Assessment at or (207) 624-6636.