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More High Schoolers Take SATs Than Ever Before, Poor Students Fare Worse

When National Association for College Admission Counseling president Jim Jump read the College Board’s newly-released report on the growing and increasingly diverse number of students who are taking the SAT, he was struck by how strongly correlated scores were to family income.

So was I when I wrote about the report in a recent article that appeared in Diverse: Issues in Higher Education:

Among SAT takers in the high school class of 2010 … 41.5 percent were minority students, a 3.75 percent jump over the 40 percent who took the test the previous year and a dramatic rise over the 28.6 percent who took the college entrance exam in 2000.

Additionally, more college-bound students in the class of 2010, nearly 1.6 million students, took the SAT than in any other high school graduating class in history.

In reporting the story, I found it difficult to ignore the fact that SAT scores generally rose with the income levels of their parents.

For example, the average reading, math and writing scores for students from families that earned $40,000 to $60,000 were 490, 500, and 478, respectively, out of a possible 800. But in the $20,000 to $40,000 range, the scores were significantly lower at 464, 475, and 453, respectively.

At first, I thought maybe I might be paying a little too much attention to the, well, “obvious” fact that more affluent students tend to do better than those of lesser means.

But when Jump, who represents thousands of guidance counselors throughout the nation, had the same impression, it confirmed for me that these numbers were worth noting.

“That’s not news,” Jump says. “But it shows that students without that advantage need something to help them overcome.”

Jump says if he had his way, he would broaden the message in the College Board report to emphasize the importance of a college-going culture.

“The increase in the numbers of minority students taking the SAT is a good sign, but true access to education requires a school and neighborhood culture that values college as well as exposure to adults who can mentor those without the socio-economic advantages,” he says.

After explaining that public school counselors are expected to encourage students to go to college on top of the many other administrative duties assigned them, Jump says he worries “that kids needing strong support about the importance of college are no longer getting it through their schools. To make real progress in access to college for underrepresented populations requires more than simply increasing the number of SATs taken.”

Jamaal Abdul-Alim is a staff writer for Campus Progress.

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