SAT Minority Achievement Gap Persists

SAT Minority Achievement Gap Persists
More minorities than ever take standardized test
By Ronald Roach

WASHINGTON
Despite the persistence of a scoring gap between White/Asian American students and underrepresented minorities, the largest and most racially and ethnically diverse group of SAT-tested high school graduates are entering college this fall, according to the College Board.
In its annual survey of college-bound SAT-tested high school seniors, the Princeton, N.J.-based College Board organization is reporting that among the 1.3 million first-time freshmen, who took the SAT this past school year, more than a third are minority, or 34 percent. Among all the SAT-tested students, nearly 364,000 are first-generation college students.
“The large number of students who are from minority groups is very heartening. It’s also encouraging that so many of them are first-generation college attendees,” says College Board President Gaston Caperton, who presented the survey results at an August news conference at the National Press Club in Washington.
Test results show that the national average SAT verbal score among the college-bound students increased by a single point to 506, the highest mark in a decade. On the math portion of the SAT, the national average held at 514 from the previous year, yet still the highest score in three decades.
Among African American students, the average SAT verbal score was 433, a decline of one point from last year, and the average math score hit 426, a figure even with the previous year mark yet seven points higher than the 1991 average. The 2001 SAT verbal average score of 433 among African Americans is six points higher than the 1991 average. Among White students, the average verbal score went up one point from last year to 529, an increase of 11 points from 1991. The average SAT math score among White students increased by a single point from last year to 531, reflecting a jump of 18 points from the 1991 average.
The proportion of Black college-bound students taking the SAT increased from 10 percent of all SAT-tested high school seniors in 1991 to 11 percent in 2001. The percentage of Asian American/Pacific Islanders taking the SAT in 1991 was 8 percent; in 2001, Asian American/Pacific Islanders accounted for 10 percent of all high school senior SAT test takers. White students taking the SAT as college-bound high school seniors fell from 72 percent of the total in 1991 to 66 percent in 2001.
College Board officials said that while there’s encouraging news about the increases in minority student SAT test-taking and performance, they acknowledged that an “opportunity” gap is reflected by the scores of Whites and Asian Americans and those of Black, Latino, and American Indian students.
“The score gaps for different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups that we see on the SAT also appear on virtually every measure of achievement, including other standardized tests and classroom grades, and they show up as early as fourth grade,” according to Caperton.
“These differences are a powerful illustration of a persistent social problem in our country: inequitable access to high-quality education.”
College Board officials say they believe that survey data on this year’s SAT test-takers reveals promising signs that the opportunity gap can be lessened through expanded access to rigorous courses. College Board research shows that students who took demanding courses, such as precalculus, calculus, and physics attained significantly higher average SAT scores that those students who did not take rigorous courses. This result held true for students regardless of racial or  ethnic group.
Officials with Fair Test, a Cambridge, Mass.-based group that opposes standardized testing for college admissions purposes, say that while rigorous courses should be made available for all college-bound students, the use of the SAT in college admissions remains an unacceptable practice. The focus on small incremental changes in SAT average scores diverts attention from more critical questions about the role of the test in college admission, according to Fair Test officials.
“The real story about the SAT should be why any college continues to require test scores,” says Fair Test public education director Bob Schaeffer. “The success of the nearly 400 undergraduate schools which do not require substantial numbers of their applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores demonstrated that the exams are simply not necessary,” he  says. 



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