Scores on SAT remain steady as more students take the exam
SAT scores remain stable even as the number of minority students taking the test continued to grow, according to the College Board’s latest report.
Although combined mathematics and critical reading scores remain at a 10-year low, the fact that more students are taking more rigorous courses in high school is a positive sign that scores will likely turn upwards in the near future.
The nation’s class of 2008 had an average combined score of 1511 for all three sections of SAT. The average score remained the same in all three areas from 2007 to 2008: 502 in critical reading, 515 in mathematics, and 494 in writing.
Over the past 10 years, scores have declined by three points in critical reading but improved by three points in mathematics.
“The results show that more students, especially minority students, are taking courses needed to be admitted to college and succeed once they get there,” said Jim Hull, an educational policy analyst with NSBA’s Center for Public Education. “Studies have shown that passing such courses as precalculus and trigonometry significantly increases a student’s chances of earning a four-year degree.”
Gaps have widened between black and white students in both critical reading and mathematics. Gaps have also widened in reading and mathematics between the “other Hispanic” and white student categories.
Males continue to outperform females in mathematics (533 to 500) and critical reading (504 to 500), but females continue to outperform males in writing (501 to 488).
The number of SAT test takers hit an all-time high of 1.52 million students for the class of 2008. Forty percent of test-takers were minorities, up from 39 percent a year ago. More females than males continue to take the SAT (54 to 46 percent, respectively).
The majority of Mexican American (70 percent), black (51 percent), and “other Hispanic” (56 percent) students would be the first in their families to go to college.
A greater percentage of graduates are taking precalculus now (51 percent) than 10 years ago (42 percent). The percentage of black students taking precalculus has increased significantly over the last 10 years from 29 percent to 35 percent. However, this is still lower than the 53 percent and 67 percent of white and Asian students taking precalculus.
“Scores are not representative of the achievement of all high school students in the class of 2008, since not all students in the class take the exam,” Hull cautioned. The majority of students in about half the states take the SAT. Even in those states, students who dropped out or do not expect to attend college typically do not take the exam.
Hull also noted the SAT does not measure how well a student has learned the curriculum, and it is not aligned to state standards.
“However, as the scores indicate, there is still more work to be done,” he said. “School board members should continue to evaluate their high school curricula to ensure they are aligned to college expectations and that schools have the necessary faculty and resources to make sure these courses are rigorous enough. In these times of right budgets, this is not an easy task but the benefits will outweigh the costs.”
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