College Board SAT Class of 2009 Report
From the New York Times:
Average SAT scores in reading and writing declined by one point this year, while math scores held steady, according to a report on the high school class of 2009 released Tuesday by the College Board.
Average scores on the three sections of the SAT were 501 in critical reading, 493 in writing, and 515 in mathematics. Scores for each section of the test range from 200 to 800.
Average scores last year, for the high school class of 2008, were 502 in reading, 494 in writing, and 515 in math.
More than 1.5 million college-bound seniors took the SAT, the largest group that had ever taken the test.
Males continue to outperform females on Math and Critical Reading (slightly), while females outperform males on Writing.
Ethnic disparities in performance continue:
In critical reading, non-Hispanic white students on average scored 528, compared with 516 for Asian students, 455 for Hispanic ones and 429 for African-Americans. In math, Asian students averaged 587, compared with 536 for non-Hispanic whites, 461 for Hispanics and 426 for blacks. In writing, Asians averaged 520, compared with 517 for non-Hispanic whites, 448 for Hispanics and 421 for blacks.
There also remains a strong correlation between family income and SAT performance:
The average scores for all three sections of the test directly reflected students’ family wealth. Students from families with an annual income above $200,000 scored, on average, 68 points higher in critical reading than students from families earning less than $20,000 per year, with similar disparities for math and writing.
Critics of the SAT typically point to disparities like these to claim that the test favors wealthier white students, and to a certain extent these criticisms may be justified. However, there is also another factor at work here:
An even sharper correlation showed up between students’ average scores and the highest educational attainment of their parents. Students whose parents did not graduate from high school averaged 420 in critical reading, 139 points lower than students whose parents had a graduate degree, who averaged 559.
The correlation between family income and/or race and SAT performance may be in some ways misleading. It’s not necessarily that students are simply ‘buying’ better scores or that the test is culturally biased against minorities, so much as the parents of better scoring students tend to be better educated themselves, and therefore have developed skill sets that can be passed down to help their children perform more optimally. Since better educated parents are also more likely to be both wealthy and white, these socio-economic discrepancies appear amplified in the SAT score disparities.
That’s not to say that factors of race and income do not affect SAT performance, but simply that the relative impact of these factors on student success may be overstated when compared to the impact of parental education.