What's Up with the SAT?

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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.



The Discussion

  • User profile image
    Barry Hawkey

    We don't push our kids anymore.  Classes and graduation keep getting easier.  With the soft curriculum options, "alternative schools," and easy A's - it's no wonder that a lot of people hate the SAT.  In a lot of cases, it's probably the first rigorous test they've ever had to take - no wonder it doesn't seem fair!  They can't just show up whenever they feel like, they can't take breaks because they don't feel like concentrating, and they can't get credit for doing anything other than the problems in front of them.  After living in the circus of a modern high school, of course that feels restrictive and unfair. The problem is not with the SAT, the problem is in the school system.  Increase the difficulty of the courses (just make them on par with the rest of the world!  I beg you!  Let's stop getting stupider!) and the SAT will not even register as an important obstacle - it will just be a long, early morning test.

  • User profile image
    Barry Hawkey


  • User profile image
    Barry Hawkey

    You're saying that the test is too long because your students had to work for half a day? 

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