Test-Maker's SAT Score-Decline Math Fails to Add Up; FairTest Urges College Board, "Tell the Truth"

for further information, contact:
Robert Schaeffer (239) 305-6773
cell (239) 699-0468

For immediate release, Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Last week, the sponsor of the SAT college admissions exam claimed that a seven point average score decline, the largest drop in 31 years, was caused by a reduction in the number of high school seniors who took the test more than once. Speaking at a National Press Club news conference, College Board president Gaston Caperton said that three percent fewer students took the test multiple times, noting that scores typically increase by about 30 points on a second administration.

In a letter delivered to Caperton this morning, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) charged “the College Board’s math does not add up” and offered an analysis demonstrating, “the reduction in students re-taking the SAT cannot explain even one point of the seven point score plunge.”

The FairTest letter explained that if 44,000 additional students had taken the SAT multiple times and if their scores had gone up an average of 30 points, as the College Board projected, overall scores would have improved by nine-tenths of a point. “That means less than one point of the decline, not seven, was due to the reduced number of re-tests.”

“It appears that the College Board has once again given the public inaccurate, self-serving information, just as it did when the SAT scoring error was first disclosed earlier this year,” wrote FairTest Public Education Director Robert Schaeffer. “Clearly, factors other than the re-testing pattern must have played more significant roles. Was it the additional length of the exam leading to student fatigue, increased difficulty stemming from new items types, or some other flaw in the hastily redesigned SAT, which the College Board rushed to market after the University of California threatened to stop requiring the test?”

The official College Board news release on this year’s SAT scores, which is still posted on the firm’s web site, claims, “Much of the score difference this year can be attributed to this decline in the number of students retaking the test and gaining the advantage of a score increase.” The FairTest letter said the College Board’s statement is “not factually accurate.”

Schaeffer continued, “Test-takers and their parents who paid more than $100 million in registration fees for the ‘new’ SAT deserve an accurate explanation for the score decline, especially since the College Board repeatedly promised that results from the revised exam would be consistent with its predecessor. So do the admissions and scholarship officials who relied on the scores as well as the journalists who reported the College Board’s false claim.”

FairTest promised to make public any response it receives from Caperton. “Our letter asks the College Board to ‘correct us if we are wrong.’ If they cannot do so, their credibility – and that of the SAT – will further erode,” Schaeffer said.

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