Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Debate Rages on as SAT Scores Decline

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Debate Rages on as SAT Scores Decline

Article excerpt

SCHOLASTIC Aptitude Test (SAT) scores for college-bound students are down again this year, another indicator that a decade of national education reform has yet to make a difference.

Results of the 1991 SAT, released today by the College Board, which sponsors the test, show that average verbal scores reached an all-time low of 422 and average math scores dropped to 474 after four years of no change.

Average verbal scores have dropped 21 points since 1969 - nine points since 1985, when national education reforms began in earnest. Average math scores have dropped 19 points since 1969 but have remained relatively stable since 1985, dropping one point.

"The fact that (scores) are down in both subjects yet again is a pretty ominous sign of our reform efforts of the past 10 years ... reform is clearly not succeeding," observes Chester E. Finn Jr., who is professor of education and public policy at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and a former assistant secretary of education.

While the SAT scores are expected to spark a new round of national handwringing over the state of education, many educators - and the College Board itself - warn that, because not all students take the SAT, the scores are not valid as a single measure of the quality of teaching, educational institutions, or districts.

Because of this, some educators are critical of the use of SATs as a measure of the nation's education system.

"The SAT is utterly blown out of proportion. It is not even viewed by its maker to be as reliable as a high school transcript," says Grant Wiggins, an educational consultant with the Center on Learning, Assessment, and School Structure. He explains that the SAT is designed as an admission test, not a gauge of curriculum or of past individual achievement.

Mr. Finn counters that the SAT scores tend to confirm other indicators of slumping student performance. The 1990 results of the federally sponsored National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released in June showed that only 14 percent of eighth graders nationally had average proficiency in mathematics. …

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