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California SAT scores up slightly; national results largely unchanged from 2009 [Updated]

September 13, 2010 | 12:01 pm

California high school seniors who graduated this year scored slightly higher on the SAT college entrance exam than last year's seniors and once again outpaced national averages by a modest amount, officials announced Monday.

Californians on average scored 501 in critical reading, up one point from last year; 516 in math, up three points; and 500 in writing, up two points, on a scale that has 800 as a perfect score for each section of the much-dreaded exam. The California total for the test’s three sections was eight points higher than the national total average of 1509, which remained unchanged from the year before.

Leaders of the College Board, the nonprofit organization that owns the SAT, said they were pleased that the California scores increased even as the overall number of students taking the test in the state and nationally rose along with the number of students from minority and low-income families taking the test.

But the national results have dipped somewhat in recent years, a cause for concern that officials said highlights the need for high school students to study more and take more college-preparatory classes.

"We need to see that reversed. It is something that needs to be worked on," Laurence Bunin, College Board senior vice president, said of the national scores that dropped seven points, to 501, in reading and four points, to 516, in math since 2005. The writing section has dropped five points to 492 since it began in 2006. [Updated at 1:45 p.m: An earlier version of this post said the writing section started being given two years ago. It started in 2006.]

-- Larry Gordon