The SAT and ACT exams judge college preparedness of American high school seniors. Verbal scores were down this year. Math scores were stagnant.
Of those students taking the SAT or ACT exams, only 25% were judged college-ready in 2012.
This decline is older than 1972. The peak year was 1963. This is what few people know.
National score data for the SAT are first available for 1952. Between then and 1963, SAT test scores held constant or even increased, despite the fact that the proportion of high-school students taking the SAT rose from 7% in 1952 to 30% in 1963, and thus that many less-qualified students were taking the test. It seems reasonable to conclude that the quality of American education held steady or even increased a bit during those years. In 1964, scores declined, and by 1970, national average scores on the verbal aptitude portion of the SAT had fallen from 478 out of a possible 800 to 460; mathematical aptitude scores fell from 502 to 488. When millions of people are taking the test, even a small variation in the average can be significant. By 1977, verbal scores were down to 429, math scores to 470. By 1981, scores had declined for 19 consecutive years; verbal scores had fallen a total of 54 points to 424, math scores had fallen 36 points to 466. In 1982, for the first time in two decades, scores rose; math by one point, verbal scores by two.
The standard academic argument from defenders of the public schools is this: because more students take the exam each year, scores decline. But far more students took it in 1963 than in 1952, yet scores improved.
The public schools have failed. This failure is now 49 years old.
James Montoya, a vice president of the College Board, said the results are a “call to action” for students, parents and schools to ensure more teenagers enroll in a core curriculum. “There are many students who have the potential to succeed in college, but they are not being supported by our education system,” he said.
There is a “call to action” every year. The action never comes. The school system deteriorates.