Massaging The SAT News

“Scores Stable as More Minorities Take SAT” said the headline on today’s Washington Post story reporting the annual account of average SAT scores. Good news, right? No, just bad news presented in happy talk. “Class of ’08 Fails to Lift SAT Scores,” was the Wall Street Journal’s more accurate version of the story, which raised the question of whether the dismal scores will boost critics of the “No Child Left Behind” policy. The New York Times, like the Washington Post, opted for obfuscation: “Class of 2008 Matches ’07 on the SAT,” not mentioning that the 2007 scores were approximately the same as those of 2006, the lowest in three decades. This is like reporting “New York Mets’ Results Remain Stable, Matching Those of 2007 and 2006,” i.e., they lost again.

John Leo

John Leo is the editor of Minding the Campus, dedicated to chronicling imbalances within higher education and restoring intellectual pluralism to our American universities. His popular column, "On Society," ran in U.S.News & World Report for 17 years.

One thought on “Massaging The SAT News”

  1. Two key factors are ignored in these public discussions of the SAT. First, how has ETS manipulated the test to get “good” outcomes? For years ETS has been doing this to boost scores generally (“re-centering”) and eliminating items that widen the racial gap. Since the test is proprietary we never may know, but a good journalist should dig deeper. I suspect that the tests are becoming rubber yardsticks.
    Second, what is the absolute number of people scoring, say, above 700 on each test. I’ve seen data indicating that these numbers have declined sharply and this is critical for America’s future. Given that this is a tiny portion of the population, a decline is easily masked by a slight shift in the mean. Ultimately, however, this drop outweighs a 1-2 point fall in the mean.
    We may be getting dumber as a nation.
    Bob Weissberg

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