Latest national results on the SAT show a rising number of black and Hispanic students with scores that indicate likely success in college, test officials announced Thursday.
College Board, the Manhattan-based not-for-profit organization that sponsors the SAT, uses a benchmark score of 1550 out of a possible 2400 on the exam's three sections, because that figure is associated with a strong probability that students will earn at least B-minus averages during their first year in college.
This year's results showed 15.6 percent of African-Americans taking the test met or exceeded the benchmark score, compared with 14.8 percent in 2012. Among Hispanic students, 23.5 percent met or exceeded the benchmark, up from 22.8 percent last year.
Overall, average scores of test-takers in the Class of 2013 plateaued, and so did the percentage of high school graduates deemed well-prepared for college, the test's sponsor said. The percentage of those meeting or exceeding the benchmark remained at 43 percent, the same as in 2011 and 2012.
The test, the college admissions exam most often used in New York State, was taken by about 1.66 million students worldwide in the 2013 graduating class. The number of test-takers was down from the previous year, prompting critics of the SAT to speculate that more students are opting for the rival ACT entrance exam.
Cyndie Schmeiser, College Board's chief of assessment, deplored what she called the "frozen" overall scores, which are reflected in results from other national testing programs as well.
Critics of the SAT, including many social activists, contend that test scores correlate closely with family incomes and show that students with enough money to hire test-prep tutors hold a substantial advantage.
College Board officials, at a news conference, pointed to improved results among minority students as a hopeful sign.
They noted the organization's initiative to waive $51 individual SAT fees for growing numbers of low-income students. For this year's college-bound test-takers, 23 percent obtained waivers, up from 17 percent five years ago.
David Coleman, the College Board president, said that in January he will reveal details of a major revision of the SAT. Coleman announced the makeover in February but provided no timetable then.
The SAT is divided into sections for critical reading, writing and math. Each section is scored on a scale of 200 to 800.
Average scores nationwide for 2013 remained the same as last year's on all three sections -- 496 in reading, 488 in writing and 514 in math.
For New York State, this year's average reading scores rose to 485, from 483 last year. Writing scores also rose two points, to 477, while math scores rose one point, to 501.
Thursday's announcement that national SAT scores remained flat prompted critics to renew their longtime contention that federal testing policies have failed. SAT reading scores are 10 points lower now than in 2001, when then-President George W. Bush signed the "No Child Left Behind" law that increased testing requirements nationwide.
Bob Schaeffer, public education director of FairTest, a nonprofit advocacy group, said the latest SAT results showed the "total failure" of intensified testing to boost students' readiness for college.