College Guide

Blog

September 26, 2013 2:50 PM SAT Scores Always Go Down

By Daniel Luzer

Once again, American SAT scores have gone down. Again, people write that this is evidence that American schools are declining.

No, SAT scores are supposed to go down. That’s just how the standardized test works.

As Julie Ryan writes at the Atlantic:

Of the 1.66 million high school students in the class of 2013 who took the SAT, only 43 percent were academically prepared for college-level work, according to this year’s SAT Report on College & Career Readiness. For the fifth year in a row, fewer than half of SAT-takers received scores that qualified them as “college-ready.”
The College Board considers a score of 1550 to be the “College and Career Readiness Benchmark.” Students who meet the benchmark are more likely to enroll in a four-year college, more likely to earn a GPA of a B- or higher their freshman year, and more likely to complete their degree.

Get out the smelling salts, American schools are worse than ever!

No, not really. As I wrote last year when this exact same thing happened:

SAT scores have declined dramatically since the College Board first administered the test. In the early days of the SAT the only people who took it were a few few students planning to go to American’s most prestigious colleges. The average score was about 1000 (on the original scale). The more high schools encouraged students to take the test, the lower the average score went. This is why the College Board re-centered the examination in 1995, to bring the average back to 1000.

SAT scoring was historically designed so that about half of students taking the examination scored above 1000, and half of students scored below 1000. By adding a new section, the scoring system changed in 2005, largely in response to the University of California system’s threat to stop using the test, so that 2400 became the new top score.

And the center, the score at which about half of students are below and half are above, appears to have moved from 1000 to 1500.

And as I wrote two years ago, when again SAT scores went down:

The SAT scores… [are] not meant to be an indication of the intelligence of American students, or the quality of American public high schools. The SAT is vaguely an intelligence test but the way the test is administered about half of American students score above 500 on each section. About half score below.
SAT decline is a sign of the success of the College Board’s marketing efforts, not of the failure of the U.S. educational system. The only way to stop this decline, in a long-term sense, would be fewer students taking the test, not better education.

The more students take the test, the more scores go down.

There are many indications of real problems in American education. There’s a high dropout rate. College costs too much. We’re underperforming on standardized tests relative to other developed countries. The SAT score declines, however, are not an indication of any problems in American education. Stop saying this.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer

Comments

(You may use HTML tags for style)

comments powered by Disqus