What to Look for in the College Board's SAT Score Report

Results from the first high school class that took the “new” SAT will be released on Tuesday, August 29. Because of controversies about the revised exam – including its extended length, higher cost, scoring errors, and the value of its “writing” section (see http://www.fairtest.org for background on these issues) – score trends will be closely scrutinized. Here are five major issues FairTest will be tracking.
Did average SAT scores change significantly? If so, why? In 2005, College Board Director of Higher Education Research Amy Schmidt insisted, “There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the scales have remained stable, that the test was of the same difficulty and the same distribution of difficulty.” This spring, however, College Board Vice President James Montoya predicted a four to five-point average decrease for combined Critical Reading and Math scores blaming a “decrease in repeat test-taking.” Earlier this year hundreds of high school counselors warned of a “fatigue factor” on the “new” SAT.

Have racial score gaps increased on the SAT?

When the addition of a “writing” section to the SAT was first proposed in the early 1990s, many civil rights advocates protested that the change would add to the already large advantage held by White and Asian American test-takers over African Americans and Latinos on the test. In 2005 the White-Black scoring gap on the SAT averaged 204 points (combined Verbal plus Math).

What was the impact by income group?

The “new” SAT is significantly more expensive than the previous version ($41.50 as compared to $29.50 for basic registration). In addition, test preparation firms reported a surge in client volume. Did these factors heighten the SAT’s already strong correlation with family income? Note: This year, for the first time in memory, ACT did not provide test-score breakdowns by income group on its test. No explanation was offered for omitting this important data.

And, the gender gap?

Historically, young women earn higher college grades than their male counterparts despite their lower SAT score (a 42 point gap in 2005). The addition of multiple-choice “writing” questions to the PSAT several years ago, to settle a FairTest bias complaint, significantly narrowed the gender disparity on that test, used for National Merit Scholarship qualification. Will recent changes to the SAT have a similar impact?

How was test volume affected?

Have controversies about the “new” SAT altered test-taking trends. In 2006, the number of ACT-takers grew by about 1.7%; how did the SAT compare? (FairTest can provide data for the past two decades). Also, did a smaller percentage of students in the Class of 2006 take the SAT multiple times than in past years?

Look for charts summarizing the major data and trends, as well as a news release addressing the questions listed above, at http://www.fairtest.org after SAT scores are made public.

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