The College Board, which runs the SAT, has sent a letter
to college administrators saying that they are seeing a decline of 4-5 points across the Critical Reading and Math sections as compared to last year's scores.
This is in response to inquiries from puzzled administrators, who have seen an even larger drop. They are further mystified because they have seen a rise in many other statistics correlated with the quality of the applicant pool, and which in the past have correlated with SAT scores (as reported by Inside Higher Ed
I realize that the SAT is a polarizing topic -- there are those who love it and those who hate it (put me in the latter category). But let's leave that aside.
The College Board is suggesting that the drop can be attributed to fewer students re-taking the test (retakes result in scores up to 30 points higher). Perhaps. The real question here is whether the drop is really that small -- colleges are saying that it's bigger. Clearly the College Board would like to minimize the issue, since it cuts to the heart of the statistical credibility of the SAT test, and to the credibility of the College Board to manage it well. They have made some very significant changes over the past few years, while promising that they are taking steps to ensure longitudinal consistency of scores. And it comes at a particularly bad time, since they recently had to publicly admit making multiple grading errors on recent exams.
Did the College Board screw up? Or is something else going on here? Since the College Board isn't talking, we may never know.