American SAT scores are at their lowest point since the test was overhauled 10 years ago, College Board officials revealed Thursday.
Average scores for high schoolers in the class of 2015 were 1490 points out of a maximum of 2400, down 7 points from last year. The decline was equally spread across the test’s three sections of reading, writing, and mathematics. With a score of 1550 considered the threshold for college and career readiness, that average means over half of high school seniors taking the test are unprepared for a college education.
In reading, the situation is actually even worse. The average score of 495 on that section is the lowest it has been in over 40 years. The average math score of 511 is a decline, but is still several points above the averages of several decades ago.
Test results show a persistent demographic divide. While white test-takers had an average score of 1576, blacks averaged a 1277 and Hispanics averaged about 1344. While 42 percent of test-takers reached the 1550 college-readiness threshold, only 23 percent of Hispanics and 16 percent of blacks did so.
Compared to 2006, when the new 2400-point SAT was implemented, scores have dropped for every single demographic group except Asians (who have seen their SAT average rise by 54 points since 2006).
The dropping scores don’t necessarily mean that students are getting dumber, though. More and more high schoolers are going on to college, and that means a larger percentage of them are taking the test in the first place . That means lower-performing students who may not have taken the test in the past are now doing so, and performing badly. A few states are also administering the SAT to all of their high schoolers, even those with no plans to attend college. Unsurprisingly, states with the highest percentage of students taking the test also have the lowest average scores.
Even if there are excuses for the drop, the falling scores are still causing some consternation. For instance, Bob Schaeffer of the anti-standardized testing group FairTest said the decline was proof that No Child Left Behind’s emphasis on standardized testing has been a disaster.
“Test-and-punish policies … have clearly failed to improve college readiness or narrow racial gaps, as measured by the SAT,” Schaeffer said in a statement sent to The Daily Caller News Foundation. Schaeffer praised the growing number of schools, such as George Washington University, that have made the SAT and ACT tests optional for admission.
2015’s results will be the last ones to use the 2400-point scale, first implemented in 2006. Starting next year, the SAT is being overhauled once again to remove penalties for guessing, deemphasize vocabulary and make 1600 the top score once again. The overhaul will make the SAT closer in style to the rival ACT test, and it will also bring the test more in line with the goals of Common Core, which College Board president David Coleman helped create.
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