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Class of 2004 steady on SAT

Posted: Wednesday, September 01, 2004

The average SAT scores for the class of 2004 were unchanged from the year before, though some minority groups made modest improvements.

Local note:

The SAT and subject tests will be offered Oct. 9. The regular registration postmark deadline is Sept. 7, and late registration must be submitted by Sept. 15. The SAT also will be offered Nov. 6, with an Oct. 1 regular registration deadline and Oct. 13 late registration deadline. Tests also will be given Dec. 4 and Jan. 22, and the new SAT will be offered March 12, May 7 and June 4.

The ACT, another test used for college admissions and scholarship applications, will next be administered Oct. 23. Registraiton must be postmarked by Sept. 17, or by Oct. 1 with an additional $15 late fee.

But large racial gaps remain, and some testing critics worry they will widen with the introduction of a revamped test that includes a written essay.

Last year's high school graduates scored 1026 on average, the same as the class of 2003, The College Board reported Tuesday. Average scores on the verbal section rose one point to 508, while math scores fell one point to 518. Each section is graded on a 200-800 point scale.

While persistent gaps between non-Asian minorities and other students show ''a system of unequal education,'' test administrators said, they added they were encouraged by improvements among Hispanics.

Students identifying themselves as Mexican American saw their scores jump nine points to 909. Scores from those identifying themselves as Puerto Ricans were flat at 909, but students in the ''other Hispanic'' category increased their scores five points to 926.

However, students identifying themselves as ''other'' saw scores drop 12 points, the most of any group.

Scores for students identifying themselves as black were flat at 857, while scores for whites fell four points to 1061. Nineteen percent of students did not respond to the question about their racial or ethnic identity.

Also, boys scored 44 points higher than girls, the widest gender gap since 1993. Boys scored 512 on the verbal section and 537 on math, identical to a year ago. Scores for girls rose one point on the verbal section to 504 and fell two points on math to 501.

College Board president Gaston Caperton said the numbers for Hispanics were a bright spot because they came despite rising numbers of minority test-takers. That suggests more Hispanics are aspiring to college, but generally weighs down average scores.

''The more students that take the test, the more difficult it is for scores to increase, because usually your best students are the first ones that take the test,'' Caperton said.

More than 1.4 million members of the class of '04 took the test, an all-time high. The 37 percent who were minorities was also a record.

The flat scores followed a six-point gain a year ago.

Also Tuesday, College Board officials disclosed for the first time the number of questions they would ask in each section of the new test. Previously, they had revealed only the types of questions they would ask.

The officials also answered criticisms that the new test will put minorities at a disadvantage.

''If there was going to be any harm done to any group of students, we did not put that change in the test,'' Photo Anagnostopoulos, senior vice president for product development at The College Board, said at a news conference in Washington.

The changes to the test were prompted by colleges' demands for more ways to evaluate applicants' writing abilities. The College Board said cultural bias will not be a factor in question selection or grading.

Some, however, are skeptical.

''It's going to be particularly difficult for kids whose first language is not English because of the very tight time restrictions on writing that essay,'' said Bob Schaeffer of the group Fairtest, an organization critical of the SAT.

Andy Lutz, vice president for program development at test prep company Princeton Review, said he expects gaps for non-Asian minorities to widen with the new test.

''The gaps in math have always been less significant, they've been in verbal and reading,'' he said. ''This adds another area where writing, reading, English grammar skills play a significant role.''

Results from the new SAT will not be released for two years. The high school class of 2005 will generally be using the old test, to be administered for the last time this fall, as they apply to colleges.



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