Are We Getting Dumber? SAT Reading Scores Hit Low
Worried about the dumbing down of America and the failure of education policy? This bit of news will hardly be a source of encouragement. SAT scores this past year hit a 40-year low on the reading section.
On the other hand, the test-taking body that administers the SAT, the College Board, says that this may be due to more and more students taking the SAT.
Nationally, the reading score for the Class of 2011, including public- and private-school students, was 497, down three points from the previous year and 33 points from 1972, the earliest year for which comparisons are possible. The average math score was 514, down one point from last year but up five from 1972.
The College Board attributed the lower scores to the growing diversity of test-takers, many of whom are less prepared for college-level work or are learning English as a second language.
“The good news is we have more students thinking about college than ever before,” said James Montoya, a College Board vice president. “Anytime you expand the number of students taking the SAT and expand it the way that we have — into communities that have not necessarily been part of the college-going culture — it’s not surprising to see a decline of a few points.”
Another explanation offered in the story is that teachers are spending too much time preparing students for statewide tests that measure certain bits of curricular knowledge, ergo the kind of analytic thinking measured by the SAT is being neglected.
The SAT is far from a perfect test--it's been said to discriminate by income and other factors, and the proliferation of tutoring services doesn't exactly level the playing field.
But there's also no question that we're not doing well by our youth, and these declining scores are hardly reassuring.