"New" SAT Average Score Plunge, Test-Registration Drop Further Undermine College Board Credibility

for immediate release, Tuesday, August 29, 2006

This year’s seven point decline in average SAT scores combined with a drop in the number of students taking that admissions exam add to the mounting credibility problems faced by the test’s sponsor, the College Board, according to assessment reform advocates at the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest). The score plunge is the largest annual change in three decades; the number of SAT takers declined for the first time since 1991.

“For decades, the College Board has claimed that SAT scores are a ‘common yardstick’ that could be used to compare high school classes over the years,” said FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer. “As recently as this spring, they assured test-takers and admissions offices that scores from their ‘new’ SAT would be consistent with the previous version. Now they have to explain how and why the revised exam led to lower scores.”

Schaeffer continued, “The decline in the number of high school seniors taking the test, as the number registering for the rival ACT increased, reflects widespread dissatisfaction with the ‘new’ SAT. More and more students are convinced that the ‘new’ SAT is a pointless, high-priced marathon that does not accurately assess their ability to do college work.” The revised exam, introduced in March 2005 has been widely criticized for its extended length, higher cost, scoring errors, and flaws in its “writing” section.

“As a result of these growing controversies, we expect the number of schools adopting test optional admissions policies to continue growing,” Schaeffer concluded. “They increasingly understand that no test, not the ‘old’ SAT, the ‘new’ SAT, or the ACT is needed to build a high quality student body.”

In recent years more than two dozen selective institutions including the College of the Holy Cross, Providence College, Drew University, Lawrence University, and George Mason University have dropped test score requirements for many or all applicants. Currently, 26 of the top 100 liberal arts colleges in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings do not require the SAT or ACT. All told more than 735 accredited, bachelor-degree granting institutions have test-optional policies.

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