September 7, 2001

SAT shows minorities short-changed

NEW YORK, Aug 28, 2001 (United Press International via COMTEX) — This year's Scholastic Aptitude Test scores indicate minority students have less access to rigorous course-work and come into the test at a great disadvantage, the College Board reported Tuesday.

College Board President Gaston Caperton said the country must take urgent steps to close the gap in educational opportunity.

"We can sustain social and economic success only if we honestly address our greatest national security threat — the enduring inequity of access to educational opportunity," Caperton said.

The test results, released Tuesday, showed the 1.3 million students who took the exam averaged 506 out of 800 on the verbal portion of the test, a point higher than last year's average, and 514 on the math portion, even with last year's score, which was the highest in 30 years. Twenty percent of those who took the test achieved a combined score of 1200 or higher and 587 students scored a perfect 1600.

Those who took the test represent 45 percent of this year's crop of high school graduates. Approximately 364,000 are first-generation college students.

The College Board found students who took such courses as pre-calculus, calculus and physics scored significantly higher than students who did not take such courses and there were fewer opportunities for blacks and Hispanic students to take such courses. Researchers found only 40 percent of black students studied physics, compared with 49 percent of white students, and only 34 percent of Puerto Rican students studied pre-calculus, compared with 59 percent of Asian students.

"Urgent steps must be taken to increase the access of minority and low-income students to high-quality K-12 education," Caperton said. "This means radically improving curricula, teacher training and accountability in all schools — elementary through high school."

Capterton called for a "true national commitment to broad-ly increase student achievement and opportunity."

Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., echoed Caperton's remarks, calling for "real school reform" where "children get a rigorous curriculum, certified teachers and updated educational material."

"The president and his secretary of education cannot expect kids to do well on tests when they are given less educational opportunity," Fattah said.

Fattah noted there are schools where only 25 percent of teachers are certified and where lotteries are held to determine who gets to take home textbooks because there are not enough to go around.

"It is not possible to get comparable test results from students when they are not given comparable educational opportunities," Fattah said. "If one group of children is given the best teachers, most updated textbooks and a challenging curriculum and another group is given the exact opposite, why are we surprised at the results?"

Forty-one percent of college-bound seniors reported grade averages of at least A-, compared with 28 percent 10 years ago. The average grade point average of test-takers was 3.28, compared with a GPA of 3.1 in 1991 — an indication, the College Board said, of grade inflation. Nineteen percent said they were bilingual, compared with 16 percent 10 years ago, and 64 percent said their parents had some college education, compared with 58 percent of their peers a decade ago.

Connecticut had the highest percentage of students taking the test, 82 percent, with a mean score of 509 in the verbal and 510 in the math; Mississippi had the lowest percentage, 4 percent, with a mean verbal score of 566 and math score of 551.

The highest mean scores were posted in Iowa where just 5 percent of students took the test, scoring 593 in verbal and 603 in math.

Among the states where more than 50 percent of students took the test, students in Oregon posted the highest verbal score, 526, and those in Washington State posted the highest average math score, 527.

Among ethnic groups, whites posted the highest verbal score, 529, followed by Asians, 501; American Indians, 481; other Hispanics, 460; Puerto Ricans, 457; Mexican Americans, 451, and blacks, 433. The category "other" posted an average 503.

Asians led the math scores, posting 566, followed by whites, 531; "other," 512; American Indians, 479; other Hispanics, 465; Mexican Americans, 458; Puerto Ricans, 451, and blacks, 426.

More than 80 percent of colleges and universities use SAT scores to help in deciding admissions. The percentage rises to 88 percent among those schools without open admissions policies.

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