Not necessarily a bad sign. I quote from below: "The officials trumpeted the size of the group that took the SAT — nearly 1.5 million seniors — and the expanded diversity of the test-takers. Hispanic, black and Asian-American students accounted for 39 percent of the seniors who took the test, representing the largest proportion of minority test-takers since the SAT was introduced in 1926. In all, 35 percent of those taking the exam would be the first in their family to attend college." While representing a democratizing of the SAT, it's nevertheless hard to separate out how the results are impacted by teacher/school quality and the high-stakes testing environment itself. Note the discussion below on the unprecedented, historic declines in scores. -Angela
August 29, 2007
SAT Scores Dip Slightly in a More Diverse Field
By ALAN FINDER
Average reading and math scores on the SAT test declined slightly this year, as the number of high school students taking the standardized exam grew larger and more diverse than ever, according to a report released yesterday by the College Board on the high school class of 2007.
The average score on the critical reading part of the SAT, which used to be known as the verbal test, was 502 out of a possible score of 800 — a decline of one point from last year, but also the lowest showing in reading in 13 years.
In math, the average score for the class of 2007 declined by three points, to 515. And the average score on the SAT writing test, which was introduced two years ago, was 494, a three-point drop.
It is the second consecutive year that the College Board, the nonprofit organization administering the SAT, reported declines on the college entrance exam.
The declines for the class of 2007 were not caused by a single factor, College Board officials said. But the increase in the number of traditionally underrepresented minority and low-income students taking the test played a role, they said. So did a new requirement in Maine that all high school seniors take the exam, including those who would not in the past have viewed themselves as college bound.
Gaston Caperton, the president of the College Board, said in a news conference, “The larger the population you get that takes the exam, it obviously knocks down the scores.”
Wayne Camara, vice president for research and analysis at the College Board, described the declines from 2006 to 2007 as statistically insignificant.
The officials trumpeted the size of the group that took the SAT — nearly 1.5 million seniors — and the expanded diversity of the test-takers. Hispanic, black and Asian-American students accounted for 39 percent of the seniors who took the test, representing the largest proportion of minority test-takers since the SAT was introduced in 1926. In all, 35 percent of those taking the exam would be the first in their family to attend college.
Officials of the College Board noted that, in some instances, the traditional gaps in scores between minority students and all test-takers had narrowed.
“More minority students took the SAT than ever before, and they are holding their own,” said Laurence Bunin, senior vice president for operations at the College Board.
But the data also showed most minority and low-income students continuing to lag significantly behind white and affluent students. The average score for students who planned to apply for financial aid in college was 501 in critical reading and 508 in math; the average score for those who did not intend to apply for aid was 530 in critical reading and 548 in math.
Black students on average scored 433 in critical reading and 429 in math; the averages for Puerto Rican students were 459 and 454; and those for white students were 527 and 534.
Many factors account for these differences, including the quality of local schools, parents’ and students’ expectations, the rigor of coursework, and access to tutors and special classes to prepare for the SATs and other standardized tests.
Seppy Basili, senior vice president at Kaplan Inc., the education and test preparation company, said in an interview that the overall results “really foreshadow what the future will look like” as the nation’s student population diversifies and college attendance rises.
Three years ago, only a third of the students taking the SAT were members of minorities, he said, compared with 39 percent this year. “Within 10 years, we are likely to see no majority group taking the SATs,” Mr. Basili said.
Even with recent declines in average scores, the broad trend is healthy, Mr. Basili said. More students are being encouraged to go to college, which prepares them for the more sophisticated jobs being created in the economy.
In New York, Richard Mills, the state education commissioner, said the number of Hispanic students taking the SAT in the state had increased by 15 percent and the number of black students by almost 10 percent from 2006 to 2007. The average scores among New York State students in the class of 2007 were also moderately lower than in 2006: 491 in critical reading and 505 in math.
“One never wants to see the scores go down,” Mr. Mills said, “but I think the more important story here is the rapid increase of participation of children who in the past did not think they were going to college, did not aspire to it and did not take the SATs so they could get in line.”
While applauding the expansion in students’ aspirations, some educators said that the national results showed local schools were not adequately preparing poor and minority students.
“Right now we’re making progress at a glacial pace,” said Ross Wiener, vice president for program and policy at the Education Trust, a Washington group that advocates for broader access to higher education. “We need a paradigm shift on how we are preparing our students for college.”
Others questioned the College Board’s explanations for the decline in scores this year, along with a more significant drop last year. Average scores for the class of 2006, the first group to take the new three-part test that includes a writing section, showed the largest decline in 31 years: five points in critical reading and two in math.
“The 10-year trend shows math scores steadily rising and critical reading scores moderately rising until the new test was introduced, and suddenly they plunged,” said Robert Schaeffer, public education director for FairTest, which opposes the broad use of standardized testing.
Since the diversity of students taking the SAT was also increasing as scores advanced over the last decade, Mr. Schaeffer said it made no sense to argue that diversity was the cause of the recent declines. He said also that the new test might have been more difficult in recent years.
“The answer they are giving doesn’t fit the data,” he said.
Figures released this month by ACT, a rival college entrance exam that is more popular in the Midwest, showed a slight performance increase for the class of 2007.
Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company