Study: Number of high school seniors with A averages increases as SAT scores plummet

Study: Number of high school seniors with A averages increases as SAT scores plummet

Do the math, as they say. Assuming, that is, that American high school students can still do simple arithmetic or much else.

It’s no guarantee, according to a new study finds that while the rate of A averages has risen dramatically over the last twenty years, standardized (SAT) scores have fallen even more dramatically.

The men behind the study — Michael Hurwitz, of the College Board, and Jason Lee, a doctoral student at the University of Georgia — have come to the inescapable conclusion: that high schools are inflating grades. Welcome to the world of participation trophies!

Data provided by the federal Department of Education compared with surveys conducted by College Board present what at first blush seems like an enigma:

Image: Johns Hopkins University Press via Daily Mail

In the graph, which covers the years 1998 through 2016, the solid line represents grade point averages (GPA). The dotted line represents SAT scores.

In 1998, a mere 38.9% of students had an A average. Last year, that number rose to 47%. That means that nearly half of all students nationwide earn top honors in high school. From the Daily Mail:

If American students are achieving more in the classroom, one would expect that SAT scores would be on the rise too — but that’s not the case.

Between 1998 and 2016, the average SAT score has fallen from 1,026 to 1,002 on a 1,600-point scale.

Critics of the study, which is slated to appear in a book on college admissions policies due out in January from Johns Hopkins University Press, will note that the drop in SAT scores is a measly 24 points — not even a full percentage point.

But there’s another variable to consider. That’s that in 2015, a California-based preparatory service blew the whistle on college admissions boards at universities the nation over, which systematically mete out SAT “bonuses” and “penalties” on applicants based on their ethnicity in order to “level the playing field.” As reported originally by the Los Angeles Times, black students received a bonus of 230 points added to their raw SAT score, and Hispanics received a bonus of 185 points. Asian Americans had 50 points deducted from their SAT scores.

And how are all these “legs up” benefiting the intellectually impoverished students they are purportedly meant to help?

A recent Harvard study found that just 56 per cent of college students are completing a four-year degree within six years of entering college. That rate is even worse with students who start at two-year colleges. Just 29 per cent earn a degree in three years.

But students who don’t make the grade are not the only ones hurt. According to the study:

High schools that liberally assign high grades may paradoxically disadvantage some students. Such grade inflation blurs the signal of high grades on a transcript, meaning that the students whose performance truly justifies A grades are not easily discernible from students with more modest classroom performance.

As drastic as this situation is, some educators seek to make it more drastic. Earlier this year, one of the speakers at the 17th (17th?) annual White Privilege Conference in Philadelphia argued that striving for good grades is a manifestation of “white supremacy” that teachers must suppress.

Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy has written for The Blaze, HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, Smart Life with Dr. Gina, and The George Espenlaub Show.


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