The average SAT score fell by nine points compared with last year’s test cycle, and the gap between demographic groups grew.
The modest overall drop in scores could be due to more schools offering the test for free during the school day, removing both financial and transportation barriers. Representatives of the College Board, which administers the test, explained that when schools offer the college-readiness test, students may take it who are not college-bound and may be unprepared for the rigors of the exam.
The demographic disparities are more troubling, showing a widening gap between Hispanic and African American students and their white and Asian American peers. According to FairTest, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, those disparities are evidence the test is not performing as a measure of college readiness.
“SAT score gaps between demographic groups—when broken down by test-takers’ race, parental education, or household income—grew even larger in the high school class of 2019,” said Bob Schaeffer, FairTest’s Public Education Director. “The exam remains a more accurate measure of a test-taker’s family background than of an applicant’s capacity to do college-level work.”
This past summer, the College Board introduced the so-called “adversity score” to address concerns about demographic disparities. Critics pounced on the announcement, calling it a thinly veiled attempt at racial profiling. The College Board quickly replaced the plan with a different tool called “Landscape” that instead incorporates a broader span of test-taker information without reducing it to a single numeric score.
Currently, 20 states either require the test for all public high school juniors or offer it for free. And while the majority of U.S. colleges and universities recommend or require the SAT and ACT for admission, a growing number of schools are dropping the traditional tests from their admissions requirements. —L.E.