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SAT scores drop dramatically

Steve Tripoli Aug 29, 2006


SCOTT JAGOW: Raise your hand if you hated the SAT. I really hated the math section. Well, last year, they made the test even longer and today we got the results. Not good. SAT scores dropped by the biggest amount in three decades. The College Board, which runs the test, says it can explain. But the critics are sharpening their number two pencils. Marketplace’s Steve Tripoli reports.

STEVE TRIPOLI: This year’s college freshmen took a newly-lengthened SAT. The College Board says that may have made more students take the test just once instead of twice. Since second-time scores are usually higher that may be why scores dropped.

There’s also the usual hand-wringing about whether our kids are falling behind, but longtime S-A-T critic Robert Schaeffer says the problems go deeper.

ROBERT SCHAEFFER: “The test-score drop does not reflect a decline in educational quality, but a decline in consistency of the test-maker’s product.”

Schaeffer’s with the advocacy group FairTest. He’s had some success convincing colleges to stop using the SAT for admissions.

He says some of the test’s flaws revolve around money. The price of taking the test went up 40% for this year’s collegians. Schaeffer says that means many lower-income kids walked away from a second bite of the testing apple.

But he says the test has spawned other businesses that stack the deck even more.

SCHAEFFER: “One of the reasons colleges give for dropping their test score requirements is the explosion of high-priced test coaching. Colleges that are interested in equity see this as very unfair in which the best-off kids get even higher scores because they can purchase high-priced test coaching.”

Confusion about a SAT score’s value could be bad for the College Board’s half-Billion-dollar business. Not to mention the test-prep industry.

And the SAT does have competitors. Students taking the so-called ACT test, which most colleges accept in place of SAT’s, just logged their biggest score increase in 20 years.

I’m Steve Tripoli for Marketplace.

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