Black and White Scores on the SAT Decline But the Racial Gap Improves Slightly

This past week The College Board reported the biggest drop in average SAT scores in 31 years. In addition, another major development was the fact that the number of students taking the SAT dropped slightly while the number of students taking the rival ACT test increased.

But lost in the press frenzy about the SAT’s troubles was the fact that there was a decline in the racial gap in SAT scores. The mean combined score on the mathematics and verbal sections of the SAT for black seniors in the Class of 2006 was 863. This was one point lower than in 2005.

For whites, there was a five-point drop in combined scores. As a result, the black-white gap in SAT scores dropped from 204 points to 200 points. But the racial gap in SAT scores remains larger than was the case almost 20 years ago in 1988.

This year is the first time that the SAT writing test scores were included. This part of the test is highly controversial, and many colleges do not even consider scores on the writing test when evaluating applicants. For Class of 2006 seniors, the mean score for whites on the SAT writing test was 519. For blacks, the mean score was 15 percent lower at 428.