Why SAT scores are slipping

September 09, 1991|By Miami Herald

IN "The Gods Must Be Crazy," a Coke bottle falls from a plane and lands among primitive tribesmen in Africa. They examine it, discuss it. But they never quite figure it out.

Much the same occurs in America each year when the College Board's report on the SAT drops from the sky. With math and verbal scores declining this year, the critics are buzzing.

What gives?

Imagine the National Basketball Association announces a free-throw contest and asks each team to send its best shooter. Result: Good scores. The following year, the league asks each team to send its two best shooters; and in the third, its three best, and so on. Gradually the averages drop. Soon the headlines warn: "Free-throw shooting declines in the NBA."

This explains one of the long-term trends with SAT scores. In general, more students are taking the test. Result: lower averages.

What now concerns educators, however, is that too many of the best students' scores are dropping -- despite revisions that critics say make today's SAT easier.

If the U.S. is to survive in a competitive world, its schools must perform better; early childhood programs are essential. Beyond that, the blueprints for the next wave of school reform have yet to be drawn. Happily, this means there is still time for those interested to get involved.

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