Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Education reform is failing students across the board, but particularly those from low-income families, experts say. (Photo: Alberto G/flickr/cc)

Latest SAT Scores Raise New Alarms Over 'Test-and-Punish' Education

"Test-and-punish policies, such as 'No Child Left Behind' have clearly failed to improve college readiness or narrow racial gaps."

Nadia Prupis

New statistics show that average SAT scores countrywide have dropped to their lowest level since the college admissions exam was redesigned in 2005, continuing a 10-year trend that education advocates say illustrates the failures of test-driven schooling.

According to the College Board, which reported the statistics on Thursday, the average SAT score for the class of 2015 was 1490 out of a possible 2400, with points declining on all three sections of the test—reading, math, and writing.

That raises an alarm for the The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), an education advocacy group, which said the latest SAT numbers highlight the failings of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) and other standards-based scholastic achievement measures.

Bob Schaeffer, FairTest public education director, said in response to the latest statistics, "Test-and-punish policies, such as 'No Child Left Behind' have clearly failed to improve college readiness or narrow racial gaps, as measured by the SAT," adding that other standardized admissions exams like the ACT and the National Assessment for Education Progress show similar trends.

As education reform activists have long warned, while the standardized testing takeover in education affects students and teachers across the board, it has hit low-income and students of color the hardest. In an op-ed published Thursday, journalist Michelle Chen writes on the unforgiving methods of standards-based curricula and the growing 'opt-out' rebellion against such systems:

[T]he impacts of the testing obsession arguably hit children of color the hardest. And families of color in struggling schools have more at stake in both taking the exam and rejecting it en masse. Anti-testing activists have emphasized the connection between test-and-punish school reform measures, school closures in communities of color, and the disciplinary policies driving the so-called “school to prison pipeline.”

[....] [The tests] don’t assess skills or teacher “effectiveness” so much as they measure conformity and the establishment’s power. Students, families, and educators are learning fast that whatever they put on the answer sheet, it all adds up to zero.

Indeed, as education policy analyst Diane Ravitch has previously explained, SAT results correlate with poverty levels—children from low-income families receive the lowest scores, and those from affluent families receive the highest. "The Wall Street Journal suggests a new name for the SAT: the Student Affluence Test," Ravitch wrote in 2014.

Other factors that affect test scores are language barriers, education levels of parents, and "social ills" that plague low-income areas, the Washington Post reports.

Another overhaul of the SAT is coming next March, when the College Board will make an essay portion optional, cut penalties for guessing, and remove some of the lesser-known vocabulary words. But as FairTest's Schaeffer sees it, the test is not what needs remodeling.

"Fortunately, many more college and universities are recognizing that standardized exams fail to measure key factors for academic success," Schaeffer said, referring to the growing list of higher-ed institutions that de-emphasize the use of standardized tests in making admissions decisions.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Border Patrol Accused of 'Unfathomable Cruelty' for Cracking Whips on Haitians

"It doesn't matter if a Democrat or Republican is president, our immigration system is designed for cruelty towards and dehumanization of immigrants," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Brett Wilkins ·


As Gov. Tim Walz Proclaims 'Minnesota Climate Week,' Ilhan Omar Says 'Stop Line 3'

"The state of Minnesota simply cannot meet our carbon reduction targets if this pipeline goes through," said the Democratic congresswoman. "Our future is on the line."

Kenny Stancil ·


Supreme Court Announces Date for Case Directly Challenging Roe v. Wade

"The fate of Roe v. Wade and legal abortion is on the line."

Julia Conley ·


Avi Lewis Hoping Canadians' Climate Concerns Deliver Electoral 'Upset of Epic Proportions'

"We need to send Avi to Ottawa to shake up the entire political establishment, including his own party, and tip the scales in favor of people and the planet," said environmentalist David Suzuki.

Brett Wilkins ·


Sanders Denounces a Pentagon Budget System Found 'Inherently Susceptible to Fraud'

"They don't seem to want to get serious about spending taxpayer dollars wisely and effectively," said the Vermont senator, declaring it "absolutely unacceptable."

Andrea Germanos ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo