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SAT Scores Show Slight Decline

It was another disappointing year for student performance on the SAT.

The College Board released scores today for the class of 2012 and reported that 43 percent of test-takers achieved the SAT College & Career Readiness Benchmark — the same percentage as last year. This means that 57 percent of students were below 1550, which the organization determined last year gave students a 65 percent chance of receiving a B minus average or higher as a freshman at a four-year college.

On average, students scored 1498 on the college-entrance exam, down from 1500 in the class of 2011. (A perfect SAT score is 2,400.) From 2011 to 2012, writing performance fell from 489 to 488 and critical reading dipped from 497 to 496. Math scores held steady at 514.

As in years past, students who took challenging courses continue to do significantly better on the SAT, reinforcing support for rigorous curriculum requirements in high school.

"One of the calls to action is to ensure that greater numbers of students across all ethnic groups complete a core curriculum, which we know leads to stronger SAT scores," said Jim Montoya, senior vice president of the College Board.

To be better prepared for college, Stan Jones, president of Washington-based Complete College America, urged educators to not let high school students slack off during the senior year. The consequence of avoiding rigorous classes in high school is too often landing in remedial education as a college freshman, he said. Jones and others are holding out hope for the eventual impact of the Common Core State Standards to ramp up the focus on career- and college-readiness.

The results of the ACT released last month were similar. Sixty percent of test-takers failed to meet the ACT College Readiness Benchmark in two of the four subject areas.

This year, the number of students taking the ACT surpassed the SAT. There were 1.66 million students in the graduating class of 2012 who took the SAT, compared to 1.67 who took the ACT.

Other interesting findings in the 2012 SAT Report on College and Career Readiness: 75 percent of SAT test-takers planned to apply for financial aid. As for their intended degree path: 51 percent planned to pursue a master's degree or higher.

Students indicated the most interest in health-related fields (19 percent, up from 15 percent in 2002). Business/commerce sparked the interest of 11 percent of this year's SAT test takers, compared to 14 percent 10 years ago. Engineering came in next at 9 percent, followed by biological sciences (7 percent), visual and performing arts (7 percent) and education (5 percent.)

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