The College Board, which runs the SAT, just announced the results for the past year’s test. And The Atlantic says they don’t look good. Last year’s test takers, on average, did not earn a score of 1550, and are therefore not deemed “college ready.”
And minorities are still lagging behind white students in SAT scores, but are on the (slight) rise (check out that earlier Atlantic article link). According to the NYTimes, high-scoring low-income students, through the generosity of the SAT, will receive packets of information from high-ranking schools and have application fees waived for six schools. Which is kinda cool, but if the kids can’t afford the application fees, then they probably can’t afford the tuition. I hope some scholarship information is also sent to them.
By the way, the College Board also administers AP tests. They like to tie students who’ve taken AP courses to higher SAT scores (they don’t mention that college-bound kids are more likely to take AP or IB in the first place). Some might say that the College Board is pushing for AP courses for minorities, to increase scores, of course, not to give College Board more money.
How are SATs scored anyway? Students take the three-section, timed test and obtain a raw score. That raw score is then compiled with all other raw scores across the country and is (magically?) assigned a scaled score. This scaled score is what goes into a lot of students’ college applications. But wait… that means that students’ scores depend on who else takes the test (i.e., every other highly-capable, probably college-bound kid). You’re ranking the highly-capable against the highly-capable. And, by the way, 2400 isn’t always a perfect score… it’s just scaled that way (not to denigrate anyone with a “perfect” 2400; it’s still quite the feat). Wikipedia has a nice section on all of the scoring changes over the years (check out the “re-centering” controversy in 1995).
And I haven’t mentioned the ACT, but they’re pretty much in the same boat of scaling scores. It used to be that Midwestern schools required ACTs and other schools required SATs. Lately, students can choose which test to take, and there’s even a lot of advice on which might give you a higher score.
Wait… so the scores are scaled based on what they think the average kid should get? And then there’s shock that the average score isn’t increasing? Yearly increasing scores would mean either kids are expected to be learning more and more, or the test is easier and easier to study for. SAT prep courses are all over the country, even in Khan Academy. But a lot of test prep places are not free, which means you need some money. And with a lot of budget-tightening across the nation, it isn’t always an option to pay for test prep / higher scores.
Maybe there’s hope! There is a new movement in colleges to not ask for SAT or ACT scores. Why? There’s little to no correlation between these standardized tests and success in college. In place of the test scores, these schools often put more emphasis on essays or a portfolio… things that showcase the student’s skills rather than their tests.