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Texas SAT Scores Drop, But Participation Rates Surge

Shannan Muskop, Texas Tribune

A report from the Texas Education Agency on the state's 2012 SAT scores shows two things about Texas students over the past five years: more students are the taking the test, but they aren't performing as well.

More students are taking the college admissions test — especially Hispanics and blacks, whose participation rates have increased by 65 and 42 percent, respectively, since 2007. Students' scores, though, decreased from 2o11 by about five points across the board in reading, math and writing, continuing the downward trend of the past five years. 

“We are clearly building a college-going culture in Texas. The increased minority participation is important to the health of this state because of our changing demographics,” said Commissioner Michael Williams in a statement.

About 58 percent of 2012's graduating class took the SAT, which was about a 6 percent increase from the year before.

Gov. Rick Perry also praised the development in a statement. 

“The longevity of our state’s economic success will be built on an educated workforce that can compete in the global marketplace,” he said. “I’m proud to see that the number of Texas students aiming for a brighter future is skyrocketing, and I remain committed to improving quality, efficiency and access to higher education.”

According to the College Board, which administers the SAT, it is common for scores to decline as the number of students taking it increases. 

Texas ranked 19th in public school student participation rates, which ranged from 100 percent in Delaware and Maine to 2 percent in North Dakota.  

A score of 500 or above on each of the math, verbal and writing portions of the SAT is considered "college-ready" by Texas Education Agency standards. For the class of 2012, students average scores were still below that: 470 for reading, 496 for math, 456 for writing. They were also below national averages, which were 496, 514, and 488, respectively.  

That mirrors student performance on the ACT, another college admissions assessment. Of the 39 percent of graduating seniors who took the ACT, according to a report released in August, 24 percent of the class of 2012 met all four benchmarks in English, reading, mathematics and science. The percentage, which has been stagnant since 2010, is just below the national average of 25 percent.

By state college readiness standards, a measure that, in addition to ACT and SAT scores, accounts for students' performance on state standardized tests, 47 percent of Texas students are graduating prepared for college. 

Morgan Smith was an editorial intern and columnist at Slate in Washington, D.C., before moving to Austin to enter law school at the University of Texas in 2008. (She has put her degree on hold to join the Tribune's staff.) A native of San Antonio, she has a bachelor's degree in English from Wellesley College.
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