By Larry Gordon, Los Angeles Times | http://lat.ms/ccumfv
September 14, 2010 - California's 2010 high school graduating class scored slightly higher on the SAT college entrance exam than last year's seniors and outpaced the national average, officials said Monday.
California students scored an average of 501 points in critical reading, up one from last year; 516 in math, up three points; and 500 in writing, up two points. A perfect score on the high-stakes exam is 2400, or 800 for each section. California's combined average score was 1517, compared to the national average of 1509, which remained unchanged from the year before.
Leaders of the College Board, the nonprofit that owns the SAT, said they were pleased that California's scores increased, even with a larger and more diverse pool of students taking the test this year across the state and nation. In the past, such demographic changes have tended to lower scores, they said.
California's eight-point score advantage over the nation came wholly in the writing section. Of particular note was that the state's African American students averaged 440 in writing, 20 points higher than their peers nationwide, said Laurence Bunin, senior vice president overseeing the SAT for the College Board.
"It looks like California's emphasis on writing is paying off," Bunin said of efforts in the state's high schools.
Since 2005, however, overall state and national SAT results have dipped, and officials said the trend highlighted the need for high school students to work harder and take more college preparatory classes.
"We need to see that reversed," Bunin said of the score decline. Since 2005, national average scores have dropped seven points, to 501, in reading and four points, to 516, in math. The average writing result has declined five points, to 492, since the writing section was first included in 2006.
Students who completed what is considered a core high school curriculum, including four years of English, three of math, three of natural science and three of social science, scored on average 151 points higher on the SAT this year than those who did not complete those classes, the College Board said. And students who took honors or Advanced Placement classes did even better.
Critics said the flat national scores show that national education reforms, such as the No Child Left Behind program with its emphasis on student testing, are not effective. "How much more data do politicians need to admit that you don't test your way to educational progress," said Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing.
Results from the 3 3/4 -hour test continued to show gaps between men and women and among ethnic groups.
Nationwide, men averaged 534 in math, 34 points higher than women, and 503 in reading, five points more. But women outscored men in writing, with a 498 average, 12 points above their male counterparts.
Students from Asian backgrounds scored the highest nationally, with a 1636 average combined score. Whites tallied 1580; Latinos, 1364; African Americans, 1277.
Nearly 1.6 million high school seniors took the SAT this year, a figure that kept it ahead of its surging rival, the ACT, by about 30,000 students. The College Board this year extended its reporting period by three months to June, to include about 50,000 high school seniors who took the SAT for the first time in the late spring.
ACT national scores released last month also showed little movement from 2009. With 36 a perfect score, the ACT combined average was 21.0, down from 21.1 last year. California's average ACT was 22.2, unchanged from the class of 2009.