SAT math scores hit 30-year high
Average verbal score falls 2 points since last year
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- SAT math scores among college-bound students this year hit their highest level in more than three decades, according to a College Board report, which noted that the math gender gap is closing as females' scores rise closer to those of males.
The average SAT math score rose two points from last year to 516, continuing a 10-year trend upward. That's the highest level in 32 years and it represents a 15 point gain over the last 10 years, College Board officials said.
Girls' average math scores hit a 35-year high of 500. Still, the gap has not been closed -- the average score for male test-takers is 534. The board attributed the two-point hike to female college-bound seniors taking more rigorous math and science classes. The percentage of girls taking precalculus, for example, has risen from 31 to 44 over the last decade.
But the news was not as good for verbal scores, according to the report released Tuesday, as the 504 overall average for the 1.3 million students bound for college this year shows a slight decline of two points from 2001.
Although continuing improvement in math scores reflects a higher emphasis on math and science in high schools, "Apparently we haven't been paying the same kind of attention to teaching of English," said College Board President Gaston Caperton.
Reading and writing will be given new emphasis in SATs in the future. Starting in 2005, a new writing test will be administered on the SAT taken by the class of 2006, the officials said.
During a news conference, College Board officials lamented decreasing student participation in English composition and grammar coursework.
But they said parents can also help by encouraging their kids to read and write more on their own. "If parents do nothing more," Caperton said, "They need to get students...to watch less television and read more."
The reading habits of parents can greatly influence those of their children, according to Wayne Camara, the College Board's vice president of research and development.
"Today, 13 and 17 year olds are much less likely to read for fun than they were in the early 80's," Camara said. "Also they are much less likely to see their parents reading in the home than they were in the 70's and 80's and further, they are much more likely to be watching 3 or more hours of television a day."
Other trends among SAT takers include:
The College Board, which administers the SAT, attributed the math increase to greater participation among students in advanced math classes.
"This year's scores confirm that the efforts that have been made to improve math education in the United States are paying off," College Board President Gaston Caperton said in a prepared statement.
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