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What do dropping SAT/ACT Scores Reveal?

Last week’s post focused on the dip of the average ACT score to a 19.8 and the SAT to a 1050. The consistent dropping of scores indicates lower academic performance. Why are scores dropping?

ACT CEO Janet Godwin said the decline can’t be blamed exclusively by learning disruptions from online learning and missed classes when schools were shuttered during the Covid-19 pandemic, but by “longtime systemic failures” that were “exacerbated by the pandemic.”

“The magnitude of the declines this year is particularly alarming, as we see rapidly growing numbers of seniors leaving high school without meeting the college-readiness benchmark in any of the subjects we measure,” Godwin said in a press release,

Recent studies have linked online learning during the pandemic—when teachers were forced to completely pivot from in-person classes to lessons online—to disruptions in students’ math and reading comprehension. During that time, students were shown to have connected less with their teachers and classmates, and become distracted more easily while at home. The high school class of 2022 dealt with online learning for more than half of their time in high school, starting in March, 2020. Students who switched to online lessons from in-person classes for just a month missed the equivalent of seven to 10 weeks of math, Harvard University Center for Education Policy Research director Thomas Kane told NPR.

I believe that other factors, especially mental health concerns, play a role:

The loneliness caused by the lockdown exacerbated pre-existing issues involving social media. Though apps provide connection, they may also distract students from learning, and promote insecurity, anxiety, and depression. My students who survived the pandemic and managed academics more successfully were those who exercised, created websites or podcasts, did virtual or other volunteering, expressed themselves creatively, or played games. Some started small businesses. These were activity-based projects, generally scheduled, that encouraged engagement.

Some students simply read more, exploring an interest in a topic, either fiction or non-fiction. But the truth is that reading scores are lower because fewer students read. I’ll explore that next week.


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