State SAT scores sag for second year in row
Arizona Republic
August 29, 2007

Anne Ryman


Arizona's SAT scores dropped for the second year in a row, with reading scores slipping to their lowest point in at least a decade.

The state's average scores dipped 2 points in reading, 3 points in math and
5 points in writing but remained above the national average. National scores also fell.

State officials cited one reason for the declines that is encouraging: The number of SAT takers in the state has risen by 25 percent since 2002, faster than population growth. A larger test-taker pool can indicate more kids are college-bound, but it also tends to lower average scores. advertisement

The results for Arizona's scores on the college-admissions exam this year:

In math, Arizona students scored 525 compared with 515 nationally.

In critical reading, Arizona's score was 519 compared with 502 nationally.

In writing, Arizona students scored 502 compared with 494.

SAT scores are only one barometer of how much high-school students are learning. Not all students take the exam, and the test has changed over time. Two years ago, the non-profit College Board, which administers the SAT, retooled the test, adding more advanced math, more emphasis on reading comprehension and an essay. The exam grew to three hours and 45 minutes, up from three hours.

Some testing experts attribute the recent declines in scores to student fatigue.

"They're exhausted by the end," said Robert Schaeffer, public-education director for FairTest, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing in Cambridge, Mass. "It reduces scores in two ways. First, it means they aren't performing at their best. It's a test-taking marathon. And they're disinclined to take the test again."

The College Board said fluctuations in test scores are normal over time and defends the consistency of the test.

State schools Superintendent Tom Horne called the recent declines statistically insignificant. "The important thing is we continue to increase our participation, and yet we maintained our status as above the national average," he said.

Arizona's scores have been significantly above the national average in math and reading for at least a decade. The writing test was introduced last year.

The College Board said Tuesday that the 2007 class of SAT takers was the largest and most ethnically diverse ever. Minority students made up nearly four of 10 test-takers.

It's not clear whether that trend is being felt in Arizona, because hundreds of students here did not indicate their ethnic group.

Horne said increasing numbers of Hispanic and African-American students are taking Advanced Placement courses in high school. The courses are designed to prepare students better for college.

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