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Student Change, Program Change: Why SAT Scores Kept Falling SAT

Turnbull, William W.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
RR-85-28, CBR-85-02
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
College Board, SAT, Educational Quality, Scores, Trend Analysis


The first leg of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) score decline occurred mainly in the 1960s. It seemed to be explained fairly satisfactorily by the evidence that the composition of the test-taking group had changed to include a larger proportion of students with relatively low- developed ability, mirroring the increased holding power of education for teenagers. In studies made during the 1970s, no comparable underlying change was found to explain the second (mainly 1970s) segment of the decline, which was ascribed instead to a complex of factors—"pervasive influences"—in both school and society. This report suggests that the academic demand level of the schools probably stopped falling in the late 1970s, that 1980 marked a significant turning point, and that the recent slight upturn in SAT scores marks the beginning of a positive trend rather than a pause before a continuation of the drop. (13pp.)

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