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SAT Test Score Gaps Continue Even As SAT Director Swears There Is No Bias

August 26, 2009

I read a recent US News article that spoke about how the SAT test scores give valuable data to college admissions counselors.  The article, written by the owner of the SAT testing company stated that research shows no culturally reflected bias in minority test scores.   Funny, because I have found cultural bias in every single standardized test I have reviewed, given, and scored.  And, I have scored thousands, literally.

It appears as though the SAT group wants to portray the image of fair-minded and balanced testing proponents, but they fail to acknowledge that cultural bias exists in the standardized testing pools once you get past the most rudimentary math questions requiring the figuring of sums.  Standardized tests may be normed on groups that supposedly have “representative minority respondents,” but that doesn’t mean the answers weren’t chosen by someone with his or her own cultural bias.  The tests are merely a reflection of a dominant social pattern, whereby those who have the dominant social position write the tests, write the answers for the tests and set testing parameters.

Inside Higher Ed has provided the following score data (in an article written by Scott Jaschik) that points to a different profile of scores that apparently the SAT company fails to cite when it writes its commercial in the guise of US News article:

SAT Scores by Race and Ethnicity, 2009

Group Critical Reading Score 1-Year Change, Reading Mathematics Score 1-Year Change, Mathematics Writing Score 1-Year Change, Writing Total 1-Year Change
American Indian 486 +1 493 +2 469 -1 +2
Asian American 516 +3 587 +6 520 +4 +13
Black 429 -1 426 +0 421 -3 -4
Mexican American 453 -1 463 +0 446 -1 -2
Puerto Rican 452 -4 450 -3 443 -2 -9
Other Latino 455 +0 461 +0 448 +0 +0
White 528 +0 536 -1 517 -1 -2

The growing gaps are even more visible when examined by income level. As in past years, there is a fairly direct pattern: the more money a student’s family earns, the higher the SAT scores. But this year’s figures show not only the gap, but its growth. The following table shows that for those at the low end of the income scale, SAT gains this year were quite modest. For those from wealthy families, the gains were significant.

SAT Scores by Family Income, 2009

Income Level Critical Reading Score 1-Year Change, Reading Mathematics Score 1-Year Change, Mathematics Writing Score 1-Year Change, Writing Total 1-Year Change
0-$20,000 434 +0 457 +1 430 +0 +1
$20,000-$40,000 462 +0 475 +2 453 +0 +2
$40,000-$60,000 488 +0 497 +1 476 -1 +0
$60,000-$80,000 503 +1 512 +2 491 +1 +4
$80,000-$100,000 517 +3 528 +3 505 +1 +7
$100,000-$120,000 525 +3 538 +4 516 +4 +11
$120,000-$140,000 529 +3 542 +5 520 +3 +11
$140,000-$160,000 536 +3 550 +4 527 +2 +9
$160,000-$200,000 542 +7 554 +6 535 +6 +19
More than $200,000 563 +9 579 +9 560 +8 +26

(Inside Higher Ed – SAT Scores Drop, Gap Grows 8/26/2009)

Hmm, looks like those in the dominant social strata with more money gained in their test scores while those without either dropped or stayed the same.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce that the SAT Corp. isn’t reading their own testing data.  Kind of makes you wonder about their integrity if they get their own test score interpretation confused by the leader of their company, doesn’t it?  SAT Testing Corp gets the Asshole Business Award of the week for their “imaginative and creative test score interpretation and reporting in US News.”

3 Comments leave one →
  1. grumpajoesplace permalink
    August 26, 2009 5:48 pm

    Give me a break. SAT reported the facts. Why should they report their analysis also? I’m sure the SAT people are aware of the differences in scores as a function of personal wealth.
    What do you propose they do to level out the scores? It seems to me that no matter how much so called cultural bias there is in a test, the lower scorees would always score lower.
    Poor people don’t give a rats ass about education, they are too busy trying to find food to fulfill a more basic need. It’s a lousy cycle ain’t it?
    Read Mazlow’s pyramid of needs to understand my point.

    • brokeharvardgrad permalink*
      August 26, 2009 6:19 pm

      I understand your point perfectly, but I think, Sir, you are misinformed. No one is asking anyone to “level out the scores,”merely that SAT, as a corporate entity not misrepresent their testing data in a national magazine. SAT claims their tests of free of bias, and that everyone should be tested with their very own product, but SAT’s own data shows that scores are impacted by minority bias. There is no argument here about how to level out scores, because it’s too much of an issue to take on in one post, but I would ask that SAT put their information out there honestly and accurately; after all, students pay hundreds of dollars to take these tests. SAT didn’t report the fact accurately in their US News article cum commercial. You didn’t read that article, so read that one first. I am familiar with Mazlow, but a hierarchy of needs has nothing to do with the SAT corporation misrepresenting their own data.


  1. PSI Tutor:Mentor » Blog Archive » To Standardise or Not to Standardise~ that is the testing question

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