Friday, September 01, 2006

The SAT "crisis'
[Matt Yglesias] Why is The Washington Post panicking about SAT scores?

The dramatic decline in SAT scores announced yesterday raises the issue of whether there is something wrong with the new test or, even more worrisome, with the lessons being taught in high schools.

Sounds bad. But how dramatic was the drop? Well, reading went from 508 to 503 and math went from 520 to 518. That doesn't sound especially dramatic to me. . .

What's more, they changed the test. They added a new writing section. Adding a new section to the test means, presumably, that this year's round of kids spent slightly less time studying and preparing for the math and reading tests than did previous cohorts. And so they did slightly worse. Seems to me it's about what you'd expect.
[Matt Yglesias] The Washington Post is part of the same business enterprise as the Kaplan test prep company and therefore has a large financial interest in spreading paranoia about SAT performance.

Normally, I don't like to fling these kind of "follow the money" accusations around without evidence, but it is true that I don't see the country's other major newspapers describing a 0.7 percent decline in scores as "dramatic."

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