NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

SAT Scores And Grade Inflation

August 27, 1997

College Board officials are warning of a rising tide of grade inflation, even as they report that high school students taking the Scholastic Assessment Test this year continued to improve their math scores. Easy grading by teachers in secondary schools, they said, is "still a problem."

  • The officials said that since 1987 the proportion of students with an A average rose from 28 percent of test-takers to 37 percent.
  • However, the combined SAT verbal and math scores of A students taking the SAT dropped 14 points over the same period.
  • Among the 1.1 million high school graduates who took this year's test, average math scores rose 3 points to 511 -- the highest level in 26 years.
  • Verbal scores, however, remained unchanged from last year at 505.

The combined 997 score for women was 44 points behind the 1,037 for men -- a gender gap that increased 1 point from last year.

Scores for minorities are rising, with math scores among blacks up 12 points and verbal scores up six points in the past decade. But scores of non-Asian minorities -- especially men -- still lag significantly behind those of whites and Asians.

Minority students made up 32 percent of test-takers, up from 22 percent a decade ago.

Sources: Mary Beth Marlein, "SAT Scores Up, But so is Grade Inflation," USA Today, and William H. Honan, "SAT Math Scores Improve, But Verbal Results Stay Flat," New York Times, both August 27, 1997.


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