The College Board says this year's low scores are due to increased participation, but that's not the whole story
The class of 2011's SAT scores are in, and they're not good.
The College Board announced Wednesday that mean SAT reading scores have fallen to their lowest levels in nearly 40 years, dropping four points in the last four years to 497. Furthermore, only 43 percent of test takers achieved a total score indicating they are likely to succeed in college.
In a press release, the testing company claims this decrease is due to greater participation by a more diverse group of students, and cushions the news with information that our top-achieving students are doing even better. (Apparently not doing better enough to bring up the national average.)
But increased participation is not the full answer to why scores are this year are so low.
"In 2002 and 2003, the number of test takers grew by a much higher percentage than it did last year, yet scores between 2002 and 2003 went up six points," Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director for Fair Test, a non-profit advocacy group, tells me. "The demographic explanation does cover part of what's going on, but not the whole thing. It's a red herring by the College Board to make it sound like that's the sole reason. There's something else going on."