SAT SCORES DOWN! The horror! I woke up to the news that the SAT scores this year are the lowest since 1999! What is happening here?

The simplest answer is that more students are taking the test. Given its intended objective to predict college performance in the first few years, those who have traditionally taken the test have been the ones most likely to plan to go to college. When the pool of test-takers increases for various reasons a larger percentage of them will consist of those who have not done that well at school and are likely to score lower.

The SAT tests have always been controversial. For instance, they predict college performance better for some ethnic groups than others, and the way the questions have been framed or adjusted over time has been argued to favor certain social classes or one of the genders. Given this background, it is interesting that the new writing section in the SAT is called controversial because it increases the length of the test and causes more student fatigue. It also happens to be the one part of the tests which showed a significant difference in favor of female test-takers in 2006, the first year the test was included.

--J. Goodrich