School House Wonk

"Genius without education is like silver in the mine." Benjamin Franklin

Pressure Drop

A report released last week by the College Board showed the average SAT reading and writing scores for high school seniors in the U.S. reached an all-time low, slipping three points to 497 for reading and two points to 489 for writing – the lowest scores for reading and writing on record.

Immediately following this release, the predictable handwringing and excuse-making ensued from all interested parties. Some contended the score drop was not a big deal because of its statistical insignificance. The College Board blamed the diversity of the test-takers.  Others saw it as yet another sign of the continued decline of the U.S. on the world’s academic stage.

Why do we care about SAT verbal scores? Should we? Yes, according to E.D. Hirsch. Here’s why:

This is very worrisome, because the best single measure of the overall quality of our primary and secondary schools is the average verbal score of 17-year-olds. This score correlates with the ability to learn new things readily, to communicate with others and to hold down a job. It also predicts future income. 

 In other words, SAT verbal scores accurately correlate with outcomes for students. Really important, life-changing outcomes, like the ability to learn, communicate and keep a job. Because these scores tell us how students will turn out, they also tell us a lot about the job we’re doing educating them.

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