Scores are dropping on the college admissions exam most often taken on Long Island and across the state - a decline that test sponsors link to increased diversity among student participants.
Statewide scores for entering college students on the SAT's reading section averaged 484 this year - down a point from last year, and 13 points from 2004. Math scores dropped to 499 - down three points from last year and 11 points from 2004. Writing scores remained steady at 478 from last year, but were down five points from 2006 when a written section was added to the test.
Scaled scores range from 200 to 800.
Exam sponsors at the Manhattan-based College Board say it is not unusual for scores to decline when the student testing pool becomes more diverse. This year, sponsors add, 42 percent of test takers in New York State were Asian, black or Hispanic - up from 32.2 percent in 2005 and 28.1 percent in 2000.
David Steiner, the state's education commissioner, said Monday that his agency is committed to strengthening student assessment and teacher training, so that teens become better prepared for college. Steiner added that "far too many students who begin college require significant remediation when they get there."
Nearly a quarter of first-year college students statewide wind up in remedial courses.
College Board officials insist that the best preparation is a strong high school curriculum, including three or more years of math and science. Many districts have gone beyond this to offer college-credit courses - either through the Advanced Placement program, sponsored by College Board, or the International Baccalaureate program, sponsored by a Swiss organization.
Rockville Centre has been offering IB courses since 1981, and administrators there say the program has influenced the district's entire curriculum. Case in point: Virtually all local eighth-graders take Regents-level algebra - a course originally designed for ninth grade - so they'll be ready if they opt for college-level studies later.
District officials say SAT scores are rising there, but that this is a byproduct, rather than a goal, of rigorous instruction.
"The initiative wasn't so much that we were going to raise SAT scores, but that we were going to better prepare students for college," said John Murphy, an assistant principal at Rockville Centre's South Side High School.
At the national level, this year's SAT averages remain essentially flat from last year: down a point in writing to an average 492, steady in reading at 501 and up a point in math to 516.
A leading critic of the SAT, Bob Schaeffer, asserted Monday that lackluster results demonstrated the failure of the federal government's policy of required nationwide testing in grades 3-8. Schaeffer noted that President George W. Bush predicted improved achievement when he pushed through the testing requirements in 2001.
"Precisely the opposite has taken place," added Schaeffer, who represents FairTest, an advocacy group based in Cambridge, Mass.
|2010 SAT averages|
|National SAT averages|