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1983 S.A.T. Scores Said To Reflect Better Academic Preparation

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Students who planned to enter college in the fall of 1983 received more and better academic training at the high-school level than their recent predecessors, according to a new analysis by the College Board of data supplied by the students who take its Scholastic Aptitude Test.

The data suggest, the organization says, that many states already have implemented higher academic standards.

But the analysis also indicates that fewer black students are seeking to attend college, despite their improved academic training and sat scores.

In 1980, for example, black students constituted just over 9 percent of all students who registered for the sat In 1983, the proportion of black students declined to 8.8 percent of the 1,021,537 young men and women who registered nationwide for the standardized tests.

The 77,137 college-bound black students who registered for the sat in 1983 represented 13 percent of all black 18-year-olds; college-bound students overall who took the tests represented about 24 percent of all 18-year-olds last year.

Financial Aid Limited

John Stevenson, co-chairman of the National Scholarship Service and Fund for Negro Students and a member of the College Board's minority-concerns committee, attributed the decline in the number of black students and other minorities enrolling in colleges to the limited availability of financial aid. "What troubles me most is that the number of black and minority students who are taking the test, even though they are doing better, has declined, and it's been declining slowly for a number of years," he said.

For most colleges and universities, Mr. Stevenson said, the sat is "still the primary means by which admissions decisions are made." But he said black students, "who tend to be poor" and therefore are more likely than other students to be affected by cutbacks in financial aid, are not taking the college-admission test because they believe they cannot afford the cost of college.

On the other hand, Mr. Stevenson said, all students, including blacks, have benefited from the overall improvement in high-school programs that has resulted largely from the higher academic standards imposed by state and local school boards and from the positive response to those changes by students, parents, and communities.

For black students in urban areas, according to Mr. Stevenson, the improved academic preparation also reflects improvements in urban schools that have been made possible by economic gains on the part of black parents. As the tax base in the cities has increased, he explained, more resources have become available for teachers' salaries and other educational needs.

Mr. Stevenson's assessment is based on the College Board's finding that the median family income of black students increased from $14,000 last year to $15,000 this year. Still, the College Board's report notes, the median income of black families is about half that of families overall.

Gap Continues To Narrow

The College Board, which sponsors the sat, also reported in its Profiles, College-Bound Seniors, 1983 that the scores of black students throughout the country have improved, thus continuing to narrow the gap between average scores for blacks and whites.

From 1976 to 1983, the mean verbal scores of all students dropped by 6 points, while the scores for black students increased by 7 points, according to the report. During the same period, the mean mathematics score for all students declined by 4 points, while the mean score for black students rose by 15 points.

The College Board, which provides tests and other educational services for its 2,500 member institutions, in 1971 began collecting data on the racial and ethnic characteristics of graduating seniors who registered for the sat and the board's achievement tests. It did not, however, analyze and publish the ethnic data until 1982.

In that first report on 1981 and 1982 graduating seniors, the College Board said that the improvements by minority students were "significantly responsible for the slight increase in average sat scores in 1982." (See Education Week, Oct. 20, 1982.)

The 1983 report on trends, which is based on the responses of 875,475 college-bound seniors, contains information on 34 percent of all graduating seniors. Of the more than one million seniors who registered for the sat, 8.8 percent were black, about 4 percent were Asian-American, 1.2 percent were Puerto Rican, 2 percent were Mexican-American, and 0.5 percent were American Indian.

Other Findings

The College Board's report also found the following:

The percentage of students from private schools who took the sat is 20 percent, up from 18 percent in 1980.

About 60 percent of those students who took the sat worked part time during their high-school years, a decline of four percentage points from 1980.

The most popular areas of intended study in college were business and commerce (19 percent), health and medical sciences (15 percent), engineering (13 percent), computer science (10 percent), social sciences (7 percent), and education (5 percent).

About 76 percent of all students surveyed said they planned to apply for financial aid, an increase of three percentage points over the 1980 rate.

Collectively, the young men sur3veyed had more years (a total of 16.48) in academic subjects than the young women (16.18). But the young women had a higher overall grade-point average (3.11, compared with 3.00 for the young men), and higher median high-school rank (75.8, compared with 74.2).

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