The multidimensional mess the SATs have become, reflecting the multidimensional mess our culture has become
Laura Wood and her readers have a useful discussion about the recently announced decline in SAT scores. The issue falls into two main sub-issues. First is the decline itself and the factors that account for it. The decline is due in large part to the increase in black and Hispanic test takers. But the situation is more complicatedd and worse than that, because the absolute numbers of test-takers scoring over 700 has declined very significantly as well. What this means is that even as the U.S. population has greatly increased, the number of very smart people in the U.S. (as measured by SAT scores over 700) has sharply decreased.
The decline becomes much worse when we factor in the second sub-issue, the re-norming of the SAT’s in 1995 which had the practical effect of raising most test scores by between 70 and 100 points. As a result of the re-norming, if we simply compare whites’ scores between the early 1970s and today, without reference to the re-norming (and media reports do not mention it), there has been no decline in whites’ scores. In reality, there has been a white decline of between 70 and 100 points, which the renorming has concealed.
Readers’ corrections and expansions on what I’ve said above are welcome.