The Persisting Racial Gap in Scores on the SAT College Entrance Examination

The College Board has released its annual report on the scores of graduating high school seniors in the Class of 2022 on the SAT college entrance examination. Slightly more than 200,000 African Americans in the Class of 2022 took the test, down nearly 25 percent from before the pandemic. African Americans made up 11.6 percent of the 1,737,678 test takers in the Class of 2022.

Six years ago The College Board “redesigned” the SAT and therefore it claims that current scores cannot be compared to those from the past. Scores on the redesigned test are significantly higher than those from previous years.

Each of the two sections of the SAT is scored on a scale of 200 to 800 points. This year African Americans had a mean score of 474 on the reading test. This was 82 points lower than the mean score for Whites. On the mathematics section, African Americans scored an average of 452. This was 91 points lower than the mean score for Whites. Thus, on the combined test, Blacks had a mean score of 926 and Whites had a mean score of 1099. Although the redesigned SAT shows higher overall scores, the racial gap remains about the same.

The results showed that only 19 percent of African American test takers met the college and career readiness benchmark for both reading and mathematics, the lowest level of any racial or ethnic group. Some 53 percent of Whites met the readiness benchmarks in both reading and mathematics. Some 54 percent of all Black test takers did not meet the minimum benchmark in either reading or mathematics. For Whites, the figure was 21 percent.

Whites were seven times as likely as Blacks to score in the 1400-1600 range, scores typically required for admission to the nation’s most selective colleges and universities.

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  1. The perennial issue before The College Board is “disaggregation” of demographic group performance on the SAT. Of the 11.6 percent of the 1,737,678 test takers in the Class of 2022, what percentages make up the potential demographic sub-divisions of “African American” test takers? More specifically, what are the subdivided performance figures by region, state, urban versus rural, U.S-born slave descendants versus recent generation migrants, and socioeconomic class. And are test-takers from other regions of the African Diasporic world, whether European, Asian, South and Central American, Caribbean and continental African lumped under the African American group label? And if non-U.S.-born slave descendants are not included, where are their performances presented? Answers to these critical questions hold significantly vital information impossible to discern from the usual lump categories. As I understand it, the Collage Board will be retreating even further from providing such disaggregated data as a matter of policy, one supposes, to avoid “unnecessary controversy.” Be that as it may, the ongoing comparison of major demographic group test scores as undifferentiated lump sums could have far greater academic or national education policy value for improving the educational performance of all our nation’s diverse constituent classes, if handled with a little more critical clarity.

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