A writer at the AP noticed a big dichotomy in the flurry of reports on standardized tests that hit us in the past few weeks. It seems that high school students had a big increase in math scores over the past five years – or their math scores have shown a decline.

First, the maker of America’s second-most popular college entrance exam releases this year’s test scores and declares incoming freshmen largely unprepared for math and science classes. A week later, results from the nation’s No. 1 test show math scores at a 35-year high. Something doesn’t add up.

Of course both the College Board, which markets the SAT, and the ACT, selling the test of the same name, claim that their exam is the more legitimate assessment of the math skills of American seniors. You can read their arguments and determine for yourself which make more sense. The bottom line here, as it is for the other companies that create standardized testing instruments is:

Schaeffer [Robert Schaeffer of FairTest, an organization that advocates balanced standardized exams] said that the ACT-SAT difference boils down to promotion of products. To appeal to the public and the media, each test maker stresses "what’s newsy" about its annual findings. "They are businesses and they are involved in a fight for market share in the same way that Ford promotes the unique aspects its products and Chevy promotes its products," he said.