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SAT Verbal Scores Rise in State, Math Stays the Same

Nationally, men outpace women while Native Americans and Latinos show small gains.

September 01, 2004|Rebecca Trounson | Times Staff Writer

SAT verbal scores for college-bound Californians and students across the country improved slightly this year but average math scores were unchanged in the state and dipped nationally, the College Board reported Tuesday.

Nationwide, Latino and Native American students showed small gains on the widely used college entrance exam, a fact lauded by College Board officials in the annual report. But overall, persistent gender and racial gaps remained, with men's scores still significantly higher than women's and Asian American and white students far ahead of blacks and Latinos.

Nationally, the average scores climbed one point to 508 on the verbal portion of the test and fell the same amount to 518 in math. Verbal scores for California students in public and private schools rose from the year before to 501, a figure still below that for the nation. The state's students averaged 519 in math skills, unchanged from the year before.

Overall, more than 1.4 million students in the high school graduating class of 2004 took the SAT, according to the College Board, which owns the test. The maximum overall score on the exam is 1,600, or 800 on each section. A new version of the SAT, which includes a writing section, will be given for the first time in March and will be worth 2400 points.

This year's stagnant scores were disappointing after last year's, which showed a jump of six points from the previous year, College Board officials said. But they and other education experts said the change could be attributable to a broader pool of students taking the test, in particular, growing participation by students who are the first in their families to attend college.

"The fact that more students are taking the test, including many disadvantaged students, reflects the fact that more and more kids are seeking a higher education," said Andy Lutz, vice president of research and development for the Princeton Review, a test preparation company. "And that's a great thing."

In California, verbal scores were up 12 points and math up 13 points, compared with a decade ago. And averages for graduates of the state's public high schools rose in both areas from a year ago, with the verbal score climbing two points to 496 and math one point to 519.

"I am pleased that the California students who are taking these tests continue to do better," said Jack O'Connell, the state's superintendent of public instruction. But he said more progress was needed.

College Board officials noted that a record 37% of test-takers last year were minorities. But the scores varied significantly from group to group, they said.

Nationally, the average scores for Mexican American students rose three points in verbal to 451 and one point in math to 458. Scores for Native Americans also increased, three points in verbal to 483 and six points in math to 488.

For African Americans, verbal skills fell a point to 430 and math climbed a point to 427.

Asian American students showed a two-point gain in math, to 577, and dropped a point in verbal skills, to 507. White students lost ground in both categories, falling three points in math to 531 and a point in verbal to 528.

The achievement gaps, which have proved stubbornly persistent over many years, reflect the nation's "system of unequal education," said College Board President Gaston Caperton.

For men, the average national scores were unchanged from last year, at 512 for verbal and 537 for math. Among women, the average verbal score rose one point to 504, while the average math score fell two points to 501.

College Board officials have said the gender disparity may be a result of the fact that more women than men take the test, with more of those women coming from low-income families or homes where English is a second language. Of the test-takers included in the report, 53% were women.

Also on Tuesday, the College Board released some specifics of the new SAT, which will be introduced in the spring. A new, 60-minute writing section will include a 25-minute essay and three kinds of multiple choice questions, they said.

Results from the new SAT will not be released for two years, because not enough data will have been gathered until then, officials said.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Test results

The SAT is the most widely used college entrance exam, given to more than 1.4 million students in the graduating class of 2004.

Mean SAT scores

*--* Nation Math Verbal All 518 508 Men 537 512 Women 501 504 California All 519 501

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Source: College Board

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