State SAT scores stay stable nationally

The Associated Press
Wednesday August 29, 2001

SACRAMENTO — This year’s California high school graduates thinking about college increased their scores slightly on their college-entrance tests in English skills, but dropped in math. 

The average SAT I scores for California students in the class of 2001 remained below the national average in verbal skills and above it in math, according to scores being released Tuesday by the College Board. 

However, a higher percentage of California students took the test than the national average – and considerably more minority students and those from families where English is not the first language or with parents who did not finish high school. 

The average 2001 scores for California students were 498 verbal and 517 math. Those compare with 497 verbal and 518 math in 2000. The national averages this year were 506 verbal and 514 math, up one point in verbal and static in math. 

About 51 percent of California high school graduates took the SAT I, one of two major college-entrance exams and one used by California’s public universities. That compares with 45 percent of students who took the test nationwide. 

The new SAT results are similar to other mediocre test scores this year for high schoolers, as the state begins to turn its school-improvement focus to upper grades. Many of the state’s efforts in recent years have been targeted at primary grades and scores on the state Standardized Testing and Reporting exam have improved. 

Not so in high schools. The 2001 STAR test scores released this month showed only 35 percent of ninth-graders and 34 percent of 10th-graders scored at or above the national average in reading, the same as 2000. In math, 45 percent of 10th-graders were at or above the national average in math, down one point from last year. Eleventh-graders dropped two points to 46 percent. 

High school students beginning with the class of 2004 must pass a new high school exam to graduate. That new test was given for the first time last spring. 

As in other tests, SAT I scores were lower for minority students. Black students averaged 436 verbal and 431 math. Mexican-American students averaged 441 verbal and 452 math. In California, 58 percent of the students were nonwhite, compared with 34 percent in the nation. 

Students who learned English as a second language had average scores of 447 verbal and 504 math. Twenty percent of the California test takers learned English as a second language, compared with 9 percent of the national group. 

Scores were also directly related to the education level of the parents. Those whose parents did not graduate from high school had average scores of 404 verbal and 438 math. On the other end, students whose parents had bachelor’s degrees had averages of 522 verbal and 542 math. 

State school Superintendent Delaine Eastin said Tuesday she is pleased that more California students from diverse groups are taking the test, but is concerned that scores for minority groups continue to lag behind. 

“These differences are a powerful reminder that there is much more work to do in California to provide our minority and low-income students with greater access to high-quality education,” she said. 

The new SAT results are similar to those released last month for the other major college-entrance exam, the ACT Assessment. 

The average score for members of the class of 2001 who took the ACT test was 21.4, the same as 2000 and just above the national average of 21.0. Only about 12 percent of California graduates took the ACT. 

California students who took the SAT I had the largest number of their scores sent to University of California and California State University campuses. 

However, UC President Richard Atkinson last winter proposed eliminating the SAT I as an admissions requirement, saying the test is perceived by many as unfair, and can have “a devastating impact on the self esteem and aspirations of young students.” 

The College Board said 161,975 California students took the SAT I test, up from 156,145 who took it in the class of 2000. 

On the Net: 

The College Board is at http://www.collegeboard.com