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SAT reading and math scores down in 2011, says College Board

September 14, 2011 |  1:21 pm

SAT

This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.

More bad news on the national education front: The College Board announced Wednesday that the mean SAT reading score for the high school class of 2011 fell 3 points from 2010's mean -- to 497, making it the lowest reading score since 1972.

The average math score dipped to 489, 1 point lower than last year. And the mean writing score dropped 2 points from last year's score.

And then there's this: The board found that just 43% of college-bound seniors met the SAT benchmark score of 1550 (the critical-reading, mathematics and writing scores combined). The benchmark score indicates that a student has a 65% likelihood of achieving a B- or higher during the first year of college. And remember, that's 43% of students who are planning to go to college.

Not awesome.

In a statement sent to news outlets, Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, articulated what some people might feel after reading the SAT report. "Student achievement remains stagnant and we continue to let failure fester in our education system, jeopardizing the future of our children and our country," she said.

The organization that offers the ACT, the nation's other college-entrance exam, recently announced that just 25% of students who took its test met all four of that group's readiness benchmarks.

But the College Board managed to put some positive spin on the seemingly dire statistics.  In the news release, the board pointed out that more college-bound students in the class of 2011 took the SAT than  any other high-school graduating class in history. Also, the class of 2011 was the most diverse class in history to take the SAT.

According to the College Board, as different types of students start taking the SAT, it is inevitable that scores will go down. But the board managed to work in this cheerful note: "However, a decline in mean scores does not necessarily mean a decline in performance. There are more high-performing students among the class of 2011 than ever before."

Here is some more information about the people who took the SAT in 2011:

  • 44% were minority students.
  • 36% were first-generation college-goers.
  • 27% reported that English was not the only language first learned at home.  

And for those of you who still get upset when recalling the stress of the SAT experience, the College Board adds this:  "The College Board continues to advise that, for individual high-stakes decisions such as admission, SAT scores should always be used together with high school grades and other factors."

Amen.

[For the record, Sept. 14, 2:22 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said the average scores in reading and math were down. The College Board says it is mean scores that are down.]

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 -- Deborah Netburn

 Photo credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

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