SAT Score Report: Fixation on Biased, Useless Test Results Undermines Educational Equity and Excellence

for further information:
Bob Schaeffer (941) 395-6773
or Monty Neill (857) 350-8207

for use with SAT results, 12 noon EDT, Tuesday, August 29, 2000

Today’s release of SAT averages for the high school class of 2000 deflects attention from the country’s real educational problems and encourages misuse of exam scores, according to FairTest, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing SAT results reveal little about the quality of U.S. schools but much about the exam’s flaws explained FairTest Public Education Director Robert Schaeffer. “For example, females continue to score much lower than males on the SAT — this year by an average of 38 points. Yet even the test’s promoters admit that young women earn higher grades in college, the very result the SAT is supposed to predict. On the rival college admissions test, the ACT, male and female scores are essentially
the same — just as they are on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. So the SAT gender gap says more about the test’s biases than educational attainment.”
Similarly, annual changes in ethnic group scores have little
significance. “Much attention will be focused on the 4 point SAT Math score increases posted by African Americans and Mexican Americans in the Class of 2000,” noted Schaeffer. “But just a year ago, the average Math scores of these two groups went down by 4 points. Year-to-year variations are often meaningless.”
This “fixation” on minor score differences encourages test misuse, Schaeffer concluded. “It’s important to recognize that a 10 point shift on the SAT can result from getting just one more question right on the exam. The College Board itself says that individual test-takers’ scores must differ by more than 120 points before anyone can conclude ‘a true difference’ exists. A measure that is so imprecise is a poor standard for college admissions.”
Founded in 1985 by civil rights and education reform organizations, FairTest has been the leader of the growing movement to make test scores “optional” in the college admissions process. Nearly 300 bachelor degree granting schools now do not require SAT or ACT results from some or all of their applicants. Mount Holyoke College is the most recent addition to the list, which includes such colleges as Bates, Dickinson, Muhlenberg, Grambling, and the University of Texas.

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