Sunday, August 01, 2010

SAT Scores Stratified, In Decline

Newly released results show SAT scores have declined since just before the introduction of the writing section and 2400 point system in 2006. During the fifteen years or so prior to that period, SAT scores had been on the rise.

The new data also show SAT scores sharply stratified according to race and family income, and will no doubt lead to increased criticism of the test as an unreliable, biased measure of academic performance and potential.

A Huffington Post article by Justin Pope goes into detail (excerpts follow):

Results released Tuesday show the high school class of 2009 earned a combined score of 1509 on the three sections of the exam, down two points from last year.

Men also widened their advantage over women by 3 points; men scored 1523 on average compared to 1496 for women. The difference comes mostly from math scores.

Students reporting their families earned over $200,000 scored 1702, up 26 points from a year ago. That group is comparatively small, but the sharp increase could fuel further criticism the exam favors students who can afford expensive test-prep tutoring.

... Asian-Americans, whose average combined score surged 13 points to a combined 1623, while scores for whites fell 2 points to 1581. For black students, average scores dropped 4 points to 1276. Average scores for two of the three categories the College Board uses for identifying Hispanics also declined, and overall ranged from 1345 to 1364.

Whatever Asian-Americans are doing, educators want to bottle it.

"For students who are planning to attend college, there's this one group that's outperforming everybody," said Seppy Basili, senior vice president at Kaplan Test Prep. "So what is it about this group? Can we do something to study it?"

Unquestionably, the SAT is a highly coachable test. It's really no big deal to raise an average student's score hundreds of points after several hours of private coaching and a few carefully critiqued practice tests.

Although I make my living party by training students to improve their SAT scores, I've long been a strident critic of the test. The SAT outlived any true usefulness, if it ever had any, many years ago.

Click here to read another post I've written on the subject of the inequity inherent in the SAT, and what it reveals about the worrisome trajectory of modern American culture.


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