Virginians’ SAT Scores Improve, Ethnic Gaps Persist

Image source: Virginia Department of Education

by James A. Bacon

The good news from the College Board data on the 2019 SAT scores: Virginia public school graduates out-performed their peers in other states: 54% met or exceeded college-readiness benchmarks compared to 45% nationally. The bad news: the gap between Asian students and all other racial/ethnic groups remains wide.

“We now have a clear trend of higher overall achievement and increased college readiness on the latest version of the SAT,” Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said in a press release issued today. “But when we view the results through an equity lens, we see wide disparities in performance among students. Closing these gaps and making sure that all of our students are college, career and life ready when they graduate must be the number-one priority every day in every school division and school in the commonwealth.”

But on the equity front, here’s some consoling news…. Virginia Asians out-performed Asians nationally, Virginia whites out-performed whites nationally, Virginia Hispanics outperformed Hispanics nationally, and Virginia blacks out-performed blacks nationally.

Table source: VDOE

As can be seen in the table above, Virginia Asians, whites, and blacks racked up average SAT scores roughly 50 points higher than their ethnic counterparts. The difference for Hispanics was almost twice as great.

All such comparisons must be used with caution. Average SAT scores vary depending on the percentage of students taking the college-readiness tests. When test-taking is limited to top students, average scores are higher. When state and local school systems encourage widespread test-taking, encompassing more marginal students, average scores decline.

The VDOE press release provided no information regarding the percentage of high school graduates overall, or broken down by race/ethnicity, who took the SAT exams.