Danger ahead: the dismal performance of some minorities on the SAT

The College Board recently reported the results for SAT test-takers in the class of 2015…and the news isn’t good.


On average, high school graduates in the class of 2015 had lower scores in all three subject areas (critical reading, math and writing) than in 2014 and overall the lowest performance since the 2,400-point scale was developed about a decade ago.

The mainstream media covered this pretty well, but most ignored or said little about a more disturbing aspect of the report: the results for Native American, African American and Hispanic students were appalling.

Just 41.9% of SAT takers in the class of 2015 (712,000 students) met the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark. That means they have a 65% probability of obtaining a first-year GPA of B- or higher at a four-year college. It indicates a student’s readiness to enter college or career-training programs and to succeed in credit-bearing, entry-level college courses.

But look at the percent of U.S. test-takers who met the benchmark broken down by race/ethnicity:

  • Asian: 61.3%
  • White: 52.8%
  • Native American: 32.7%
  • Hispanic: 22.7%
  • African American: 16.1%

The numbers for native Americans, Hispanics and African-Americans in Oregon who met the College and Career Readiness Benchmark were pretty dismal, too: 

  • Native American: 31%
  • Hispanic: 22.6%
  • African American: 24.9%

Some argue that the averages for minority students are low because the number of them taking the test is expanding: 32.5% were underrepresented minority students in the class of 2015, compared to 31.3% in the class of 2014 and 29.0% in the class of 2011.

Others argue that this is avoiding the real issue, that too many minority students are not getting a good education. “Without access to challenging courses and assessments that measure their progress, students will not be able to get the most out of their opportunities to prepare for college and careers.” The College Board said in its report.

The College Board noted that there continue to be striking differences in academic preparation between white and Asian students and African Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics that affect college readiness. White and Asian students taking the SAT, for example, are more likely to have taken AP and Honors courses. They are also more likely to have completed a full “core curriculum,” which includes four or more years of English, three or more years of mathematics, three or more years of natural science, and three or more years of social science and history.

“Nowhere is there more of a need to expand access to more rigorous coursework than among low-income and minority students,” said Cyndie Schmeiser, Chief of Assessment at the College Board.

The U.S. Census projects that racial and ethnic minorities will represent more than half of all children in the United States by 2023, and that the U.S. population will be 54 percent minority by 2050. As noted by the Association of American Colleges & Universities, “Youth from these communities need full preparation for and access to higher education. It would be both immoral and impractical to ignore the disparities facing these young people, as a brighter future for them means a brighter future for all.”


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