As educational inflation makes college more and more expensive, there is a curious slide in the SAT scores colleges use as one of the factors in determining who will get admitted into a new class. For years, SAT scores (standing for the Scholastic Assessment Test) and ACT scores (standing for American College Testing) have been the final hurdles for High School seniors (and practice for HS juniors) who are looking to go on to college. As a standardized test used by colleges and universities to compare students to each other across a new class, SAT scores are also useful to compare students in various years. SAT scores, which had a clear positive trajectory from 1995 until 2005, started sliding until today. 2011′s average score of 1011 is only one point above the 1995 average of 1010.
Average SAT Score
Total Average SAT Score by Year (Collegeboard)
Obviously, this is just a view from 10,000 feet. I know that the SAT changed in March of 2005, so 2006 scores might be different than 2005. In fact, there are now three sections on the SAT – Writing was added to Critical Reading and Mathematics. Stripping out the writing element is what leads to the scores above. While the Math section got harder in 2006, the Reading section actually got easier – reading passages were shortened and analogies were eliminated completely. Viewing the subject breakdown, you’ll see that hasn’t really shown up in the statistics…
Average Critical Reading and Mathematics Scores, SAT, 1995 – 2011 (Collegeboard)
Yes, even with the new, friendlier, Critical Reading section, scores have been declining. Math scores seemed to be declining, but have been holding steady since 2007.
What’s Up With the Students?
So, what’s going on? I haven’t dug too far into the data, but there can be a lot of factors. Is changing family structure affecting students? Is diversity of test takers affecting scores – socioeconomic as well as racial (and, why should this matter)? Is it due to the poor economy, with students unable to afford the SAT prep that students of 2003 – 2005 could? Are more students taking the tests – including students with the grades who previously would have been satisfied with graduating High School?
To my readers: I’ll probably come back to this one, perhaps touching on all of the above questions. As I went to college not-too-long ago, this is definitely a topic which interests me.