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SAT Reading, Writing Test Scores Drop to Lowest Levels

Average reading and writing SAT scores for high school students declined to their lowest levels while math results stalled in the exam used for admission at most U.S. colleges.

For the class of 2012, the average critical reading score fell 1 point to 496 from a year earlier, the lowest since data became available in 1972, according to a report released today by the New York-based College Board, which administers the test. The average score for writing dropped 1 point to 488, the lowest since writing was added to the exam in 2006. Math results were unchanged at 514. Scores can range from 200 to 800.

As states tout results on their own reading and math exams, SAT results have stagnated, undercutting claims of improvement in K-12 education under No Child Left Behind, the country’s main public schools law.

“NCLB and state high-stakes testing programs have dramatically undercut college readiness,” said Bob Schaeffer, a spokesman for FairTest, a Boston-based nonprofit group critical of standardized testing. “Test-driven K-12 school policies have been a colossal failure.”

A record 1.66 million students from the class of 2012 took the exam. The same number took the rival ACT test, owned by ACT Inc. of Iowa City, according to that company’s report released in August.

The drop in scores reflect the fact that more lower-income students with less access to high-quality education are taking the test, the College Board said today in a briefing. Minority students made up 45 percent of the test pool, the most diverse ever, according to the nonprofit College Board, whose members include universities.

To contact the reporter on this story: Janet Lorin in New York jlorin@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lisa Wolfson at lwolfson@bloomberg.net

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