Average national SAT scores

December 7, 2010

By Mary Beth Marklein, USA TODAY original post here

Average national SAT scores for the high school class of 2010 fluctuated slightly by section compared with last year, but remained unchanged overall, a report says.

Asian students continue to post the greatest average increases among racial and ethnic groups, and blacks score the lowest. Average scores for students from wealthy families were among the highest of all.

The report also highlights a gap in average scores between students who completed a core academic curriculum, and who took honors or college-level coursework, and those who didn't.

"This report confirms that there are no tricks and there are no shortcuts to college readiness," said Gaston Caperton, president of the non-profit College Board, which released the report Monday. "Students who take more rigorous courses in high school are more prepared to succeed in college and beyond."

Test takers averaged 1,509 points out of a possible 2,400 in three sections, the same as last year.

Nearly 1.6 million members of the class of 2010 took the test, a record. Of those, 41.5% were minorities, up from 40% last year.

College Board officials characterized the flat one-year change as encouraging because average scores typically drop as more students, and a more diverse range of students, take the test. They also noted that, over the last 10 years, as the minority participation rate grew 78.3%, math scores have climbed 2 points while critical reading scores have declined 4 points.

Even so, Caperton urged schools to offer more rigorous courses and said, "Kids have to work harder." The USA, once a world leader in the proportion of adults 25-34 with college credentials, now ranks 12th among industrialized countries, the College Board says.

"America's students are not completing college at a high rate because our education system is not preparing them to succeed in college," he said. "If we want to improve college completion, we have to improve college readiness. If we want to improve readiness we have to measure it."

Critics of standardized testing suggest the federal No Child Left Behind law has contributed to the problem. The law, which went into effect in the 2003-04 academic year, requires states that want to receive federal funding for schools to develop skill assessment for all students in certain grades.

Since then, reading scores have declined from 508 to 501, math from 518 to 516. Writing scores have dropped 5 points since that section was added in 2005, from 497 to 492.

Average composite scores on the ACT college entrance exam have fluctuated between 20.9 and 21.2 (out of 36) since 2003-04; this year's scores, released last month, averaged 21.0.

At the same time, racial and ethnic gaps in test scores are not narrowing; since 2006, average scores for Asian Americans are up 36 points, while scores for blacks are down 14.

Those data "contradict the claim that more high-stakes testing improves educational quality and equity," says Robert Schaeffer, spokesman for the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, a critic of standardized tests. "We keep adding more and more high-stakes tests (but) have left more children further behind."

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