Southern States Improve College Entrance Exam Scores, But Still Lag NationallyCHARLESTON, W.Va.
Scores on college entrance exams in the South improved over the last decade, but a dozen states in the region remain among the bottom 15 in the nation, according to a study released last month.
The study by the Atlanta-based Southern Regional Education Board also found that the region failed to close the achievement gap between Blacks and Whites, and few states are doing a good job of preparing all students for college.
The study, which looked at SAT and ACT scores in 16 traditionally Southern and border states, found that only Maryland posted a score in 2002 that at least matched the national average. It had a 1020 SAT average. A score of 1600 is perfect.
“In many schools we know there is a hesitation to involve borderline students in high standards testing … and we believe that is a huge mistake,” says Dr. Ron Peiffer, deputy superintendent, Office of Academic Policy, Maryland State Department of Education. “All students need to be exposed and know that people have high expectations for them.”
Overall, 13 of the 16 states showed improvement on their dominant college entrance test from 1992 to 2002. Two ACT states, Mississippi and Tennessee, had score declines but they also showed the largest increases — along with Alabama — in the percentage of their seniors tested.
Another ACT state, Kentucky, showed no change in its scores, but it also increased its percentage of students tested.
Both Black and White students in South Carolina improved more than any other state, posting an SAT gain of 43 points from 1992 to 2002. Still, White students gained more, so the achievement gap widened between the races.
Much of the difference can be traced back to course-taking patterns, said Dr. Gail Morrison, deputy director of the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education.
“In the Black community, large numbers of test takers are first-generation college students who don’t have college-educated parents to encourage them,” Morrison says.
Last year, the Southern Regional Education Board’s member states vowed to become national leaders in education and move away from negative labels of earlier eras.
“We’re still not above the 50th percentile as often as we should be to break the stereotypes but we’re moving in the right direction,” said author Joan Lord, the SREB’s director of education policies.
The states examined by the study were Ala., Ark., Del., Fla., Ga., Ky., La., Md., Miss., N.C., Okla., S.C., Tenn., Texas, Va., and W.Va.
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