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California public school students decline in SAT scores

September 15, 2011 |  3:14 pm

Photo: A Spanish class at Huntington Park High School. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times Among the interesting details in the latest SAT results from the College Board:  California's public school students scored much lower on the high-stakes test than other members of the state's 2011 high school graduating class.    

Students from California's public high schools, who made up 86% of the state's test takers, scored 494 in critical reading, 513 in mathematics and 494 in writing. The average score for critical reading and math were each down six points from 2010 while writing scores dropped five points. A perfect score on each of the test's three sections is 800.

The average combined score for California public school students -- 1501 -- was 12 points lower than the average combined score for all California students, which included those from independent and religiously affiliated schools, according to the report released Wednesday by the College Board.

State education leaders said that increased participation of students from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds may have been a factor in the lower scores. Such students frequently are less prepared academically, for example attending schools that do not offer honors or Advanced Placement courses.

And longer-term trends, in fact, were more promising, with the state's public school student scores up three  points in writing, two points in critical reading and one point in math since 2007.

“College has increasingly become the price of admission to the job market, so it is encouraging that more students than ever see college as their futures,” California Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in a statement. “While more students are becoming serious about higher education, we still need to ensure they are prepared to succeed once they get to college.

In other results from California’s class of 2011:

* 45% of all test takers -- 49% of those from public schools -- reported their parents’ highest level of education as a high school diploma.

* 44% of the state's test takers -- and 47% from public schools -- reported learning a language other than English at home.

* 34% of California students who took the SAT obtained a fee waiver, which is for low-income students.

* Boys averaged 536 in math, 38 points higher than girls, and 505 points in critical reading, 11 points higher than girls. But girls averaged 502 points in writing, six points above their male counterpoints.

* White students in California had the highest combined average on the test with 1,643 points; Asians, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders averaged 1,624; Mexican and Mexican Americans, 1,356; and African Americans, 1,318.


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 --Carla Rivera

Photo: A Spanish class at Huntington Park High School. Credit: Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times