Under the (front page) headline, “Oregon SAT’s lost some ground”, the Oregonian (Sept. 15, 2011) tells us:
Oregon’s high school seniors are testing increasingly lower on the annual SAT’s, based on results released Wednesday by the College Board.
Average test scores for Oregon’s high school class of 2011 were the lowest in a decade, though they were good enough to keep Oregon scores above the national average, ranking 22nd…
In Oregon 15,763 public high school students, or 89 percent of the state’s total number of possible test takers, completed the exam. This year, they scored lower in each category compared with 2010 averages…
Andrea Morgan, an educational specialist at the Oregon Department of Education, said the SAT shouldn’t be overinterpreted. The test is not a barometer of college readiness or how well the state educates high school students overall, she said. Many colleges and universities use SAT scores and high school gradepoint averages to gauge a student’s possible performance level. But it’s not everything…
Morgan blames the decrease this year to the larger number of students taking the exam. This year, 18,754 students took the SAT, about 56 percent of the state’s high school graduates according to the department. In 2010, 18,461 students took the exam, or about 54 percent of the high school graduates.
Morgan and others at the education department went out of their way to point out a potential gold lining: an uptick in the percentage of minority and underperforming students who took the test – 25 percent compared with 23 percent in 2010.
“If the state is increasing the number of minority and underperforming students taking the SAT, then that is a positive,” said Sue Levin, executive director of the Oregon chapter of Stand for Children, the educational advocacy nonprofit…”
Indeed, in 2011, more Latino, African American and Asian students took the SAT test. The increase in the number of Asian students, in particular, was most notable: a 168-person jump. Asian students also performed comparably to white students in the three categories as a whole…
“We’re going to have higher expectations now,” Morgan said. “We’ll see an increase in these scores as more students are expected to meet that higher standard.”
The above article is so full of misleading statements, and hogwash, that it would be no surprise if The Oregonian chose to leave it out of their webpage (the above is from the printed edition) for fear of the ridicule it would attract.
Yes, it’s true that SAT scores are not “everything”. One factor that is much more important, in deciding who gets into prestigious schools and who does not, is race. The Center for Equal Opportunity, for example, recently found that:
The odds ratio favoring African Americans and Hispanics over whites was 576-to-1 and 504-to-1, respectively, using the SAT and class rank while controlling for other factors. Thus, the median composite SAT score for black admittees was 150 points lower than for whites and Asians, and the Latino median SAT score was 100 points lower. Using the ACT, the odds ratios climbed to 1330-to-1 and 1494-to-1, respectively, for African Americans and Hispanics over whites.
So yes, it is true that SAT scores are not “everything”. What about the explanation given for why this year’s scores are lower than last years – More students took the test? Left unexplained is how, exactly, a larger sample size necessarily results in lower scores. By this reasoning, countries with the most people should also be the dumbest. China should be an intellectual dwarf compared to Haiti.
Later in the article, it is revealed that there is a “gold lining” (a “silver lining” is not good enough): more minority, and underperforming, students took the test. Now I know I’m going out on a limb here, but is it possible that this might have something to do with the lower average test scores? Yes, it’s true that a lot of Asians took the test this year – but this wouldn’t have an appreciable effect on the average score since “Asian students also performed comparably to white students”. What would have an appreciable impact is, of course, the black and Hispanic test-takers.
But not to worry! As expectations get higher, we’ll see an increase in scores in the near future. But of course. There is little doubt that test scores will improve – by any means necessary.
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