Same SAT, Different Day

by Robert Pondiscio
September 15th, 2011

Still blaming poor SAT scores on test-takers?

SAT reading scores for 2011 high schools grads fell to their lowest point in history. The College Board attributes the decline “to the increasing diversity of the students taking the test,” notes the New York Times. But that argument was effectively dismissed by E. D. Hirsch when scores were announced last year.

“The standard explanation is that our test scores have declined chiefly because of a demographic broadening of the test-taking base. This claim ignores compelling contrary evidence. During the period of the big drop, from 1965 to 1980, verbal scores in the state of Iowa – 98 percent white and middle class – dropped with similar sharpness.

What changed, Hirsch noted, had less to do with the demographics of the test-takers “than the anti-intellectual ideas that fully took over first teacher-training schools and then the teachers and administrators they trained. The result was a retreat from a knowledge-based elementary curriculum — as researchers have shown by analyzing the severe watering down of American school books in the period 1950-to the present. The decline of the elementary curriculum coincided with our sharp decline in verbal ability and test scores.”

A sloppy workman blames his tools.   Or in this case, test-takers.