Declining scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test are not an indication that America's education system is getting worse, though the average verbal score reached an all-time low. Rather, it is an indication that even after a decade of so-called education reform, schools haven't gotten much better.
It is not the first indication, either. While the SAT is criticized as a measure of school performance because it is taken only by a self-selected group of students who intend to apply to college, other tests based on representative samples of students show the same result. What's more, the SAT trend is not new. Scores peaked in the mid-1960s, then went into a long decline. There was a brief turnaround in the early-1980s, but SAT verbal scores have shown small declines five years in a row. Math scores remained the same for four years before this year's drop.
The lack of improvement is sometimes blamed on more students taking the tests. Since these students, on average, are not as academically accomplished as previous SAT-takers, a drop in test scores is not surprising. This misses a key point: These new test-takers are going through the rigors of the SATs because they plan to attend college. If the country is to attain its goal of a more educated work force without devaluing college education, it must add to the quality as well as the quantity of college-bound students.