SAT scores for America’s high schools are flat-lining, as is the college preparedness of high school seniors, the College Board announced.
Some 1.67 million students took the SAT in the past year, and they averaged scores of 497 out of 800 in reading, 513 in mathematics, and 487 in writing. The numbers are virtually identical to last year’s, when students averaged 496, 514, and 488 on each respective test.
It marks the sixth straight year that scores have seen almost no movement. In 2013, the College Board said it was “concerned” at the lack of long-term improvement, and 2014’s scores have done nothing to mitigate that concern.
Not only are overall scores steady, so are other factors the SAT intends to measure. The College Board’s estimation of high school students’ college readiness has failed to budge, too. Any student who scores at least 1550 out of 2400 points on the exam is deemed college-ready by the College Board, meaning they are believed to have at least a 65 percent chance of earning a B- average or better in their first year of college. In 2014, 42.6 percent of test-takers reached this threshold– a number essentially unchanged from last year.
In a diversifying United States, the proportion of test-takers that are racial minorities continues to rise, with 47.5 percent being minorities this year. With that in mind, the College Board’s score release is also concerning due to the continuing racial achievements gaps it highlights. Black students average 1278 points out of 2400, compared to 1576 points for whites and 1656 points for Asians. Instead of narrowing, the gap between different racial groups has widened since 2006.
Long-term stagnation is one factor driving a major revision of the test currently being made by the College Board. Starting in 2016, the SAT will go back to the 1600 point scale used until 2005, and will include a greater focus on textual analysis and scientific reading, traits borrowed from the rival ACT test.
“Offering the same old test in the face of lasting problems is just not good enough,” College Board president David Coleman said in a statement accompanying the scores release.
Critics, however, say the problem is with the entire standardized testing approach and cannot be fixed by simply redesigning the test. The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, betting known as FairTest, said 2014’s results showed that America places too much emphasis on standardized tests that do not produce long-term improvements.
Bob Schaeffer, FairTest’s public education director, tied the stagnating scores to a wider stagnation in American academics.
“The proponents of test-driven schooling in the U.S. said that this year… would be the year every child would be proficient,” Schaeffer told The Daily Caller News Foundation, referring to the lofty goals of the original No Child Left Behind bill, which passed in 2001 and places heavily emphasis on using tests to hold schools accountable. “They also predicted that using lots of exams would boost U.S. academic achievement…and they also predicted a closing of racial gaps.”
“None of those things have occurred,” Schaeffer said, and he said it calls for a fundamental re-evaluation of how the country measures academic success. He faulted the SAT for promoting a “test-prep” culture in the nation’s high schools. Putting a new coat of paint on the SAT with a new redesign, he said, will do nothing to stop this fundamental issue.
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