Look over headlines from America’s daily newspapers Wednesday and one issue jumps out: Scholastic Aptitude Test scores took a dive in 2005 for American students.

The SAT added a writing section last school year and no one knows quite what to make of that yet. What they all agree on, however, is that it boosted the time to take the SAT to nearly four hours. A guidance counselor in Boston said it made her tired just thinking about taking a test that long.

According to Patricia Catt, a counselor at Frankton High School, colleges aren’t even looking at the writing section yet or, if they do, it is being used as a tiebreaker between students.

The writing section is being studied closely by colleges and high schools. It was reported by the Boston Globe that the writing section added 35 minutes to the test and some students who were in honors English scored below average.

Reading fell from an average of 508 to 503, and math fell from 520 to 518. These aren’t huge differences, but it’s hard to figure out why the writing section would have an effect on the other two. The time factor, causing fatigue, seems to be the only plausible answer.

What is interesting is that girls scored 11 points higher than boys on the writing. We’ve been hearing a lot about boys not keeping up with girls in school and maybe these results are an indicator that boys need help they are not getting.

It will take awhile to sort out the data collected from the new SAT. School officials will detect problem areas and students will adapt to the longer test.

The first year’s results are probably indicative of the change in the test and not students being unprepared. Students will need time to adjust to the rigors of the new test and this could mean retaking the test, which can add an increase of 30 points to the previous score, according to Jason Bearce of the Indiana Department of Education.

So let’s not get overly disturbed at the drop in scores. Such a drop is certainly an anomaly and not a prediction. It would be nice if the folks at SAT could scale back the test to under three hours, but students will adjust. We’ll see what the scores are a year from now and what changes there are in the writing section. Then it might be time to effect some positive changes in order to be better prepared for the SAT.

– The Herald Bulletin, Anderson

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