More on the “dramatic decline” in SAT scores. S.M. writes:
I’ve been tutoring high school students for a number of years now, helping them prepare for their SATs. In the current discussion about the decline in test scores, it’s important to note that not only was the test lengthened and a writing section added, but the actual content of the reading and math sections was changed. The analogy section (in my opinion as a linguist, the most interesting and insightful part of the old test) has been replaced by questions based on short reading selections, and the math problems are mildly more difficult in the moderate/hard range than they were just a few years ago. The changes in the reading are such that more students, often very good ones, don’t have enough time to finish a section. Add to all this the fact that the overall length of the test is dramatically increased and it’s no wonder that average scores are declining a bit. I’m actually surprised that the reported decline is as small as it is.
While making shockingly little money at my first job in DC, I worked at second job at a test-prep firm in Bethesda. As part of my job, I took the new SAT last year. And, much to my chagrin, I did worse than I did in high school — way worse. This may be a product of the fact that I have already been to college and didn’t have a lot riding on the test, but I think it also had something to do with the fact that the new test is hideously long. I have had students who probably would have tried the test a second or third time to raise their scores, had the first one not been such a miserable experience. No matter what the College Board says, fatigue is a factor, and students who have had professional preparation to deal with that fatigue are going to do better. (Students who have had professional counseling on how to convince the College Board to let them take the test over several days are way out front on this.) We shouldn’t just be worried about a small dip in the scores, we should be worried about the achievement gap that changes in the test is opening.
I haven’t heard from anyone with relevant experience taking the Post‘s alarmist line.