Thursday, May 24, 2018
Opinion

Column: SAT overhaul aims at leveling playing field (w/video)

The College Board announced this week that it is overhauling the SAT, dropping the timed essay and focusing less on fancy vocabulary in order to level the playing field a bit for high school students from a wider range of families.

The organization's own data show that wealthier Americans, from more educated families, tend to do far better on the test. As do white and Asian Americans.

Almost certainly, these findings have common origins in that the SAT, which is currently scored on a 2,400-point scale, benefits families who can provide their kids with a better education and more test prep.

SAT scores are highly correlated with family income. Students from families earning more than $200,000 a year average a combined score of 1,714, while students from families earning under $20,000 a year average a combined score of 1,326. The writing test has the widest score gap, perhaps explaining why College Board officials are dropping the essay.

EDUCATED FAMILIES. Students from educated families do better. A student with a parent with a graduate degree, for example, on average scores 300 points higher on their SATs compared to a student with a parent with only a high school degree. No doubt this is the same dynamic reflected in the income graph, given that there are high returns to college education. But it also dispels the notion that students in America have good opportunities to advance regardless of the family they're born to.

ETHNIC GROUPS. Asians and whites get much higher scores than other ethnic groups. Asians top the test with an average score of 1,645, while African-Americans record the lowest score with an average of 1,278. It appears that the advantage of white students over black and Hispanic students is roughly similar for the reading, math and writing test.

© 2014 Washington Post

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