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Another year of gains for Native students on SAT

For yet another year, Native American students registered big gains on the Scholastic Aptitude Test, based on figures released on Tuesday.

American Indian and Alaska Native students, in fact, registered the largest point gain on the verbal portion of the test. In 2005, Native student scored an average of 489 on the test, a 6-point increase from 2004.

Although still lower than the national average of 508, the Native student scores represented the best improvement in a year when students of other racial and ethnic backgrounds showed no major change in verbal scores.

Strong gains were also made on the math portion of the test. In 2005, Native students scored an average of 493, an increase of 5 points from 2004. The national average was 520.

Compared with scores from a decade ago, Native students have made tremendous progress on the SAT. The 10-year gain on the verbal portion was 9 points, surpassed only by Asians (19 points) and Puerto Ricans (12 points).

On the math portion, Native students increased their scores significantly by 17 points from 1995 to 2005. This improvement was surpassed only by Asian students, who made a 25-point gain during the same time period.

The math scores of Native students fit in the national trend. In 2005, math results were the highest in the history of the SAT.

"I am encouraged by the improvement demonstrated in math, a fundamental skill that students need to succeed in college and, later, in a highly competitive global marketplace," said Gaston Caperton, the president of the College Board, the group that administers the SAT.

In showing improvement, the verbal scores of Native students ran counter to the national trend. In 2004, U.S. verbal results remained flat, indicating "what we have observed for years: the need to redouble efforts to emphasize the core literacy skills of reading and writing in all courses across the curriculum starting in the earliest grades," Caperton said.

Overall, about 8,900 Native students took the SAT this year. This represented only about 1 percent of the total test-takers but an 8.5 percent increase in the number of Native students who took the test in 2004.

SAT results varied state by state. Native students in California, which has the largest number of Native Americans, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, saw an average verbal score of 503 and an average math score of 504.

Native students in Oklahoma, home to the second largest Native population, performed much better. The average verbal score was 565 and their average math score was 538.

Native students in Alaska, the state with the highest percentage of Native Americans had an average verbal score of 451 and an average math score of 466. In New Mexico, the third-ranked stated by proportion, the average verbal was 514 and the average math was 499. (Oklahoma, with the second-highest proportion, was reported as above.)

The mean grade-point average of Native Americans who took the test was 3.22, on a 4.0 scale. Nearly half, or 45 percent, said they were the first generation in their family to attend college.

More and more Native students are taking the SAT, required for admission at Ivy League schools and many schools in the East. The American College Testing (ACT) is required by many schools in the West.

Results from the ACT were released on August 17. Native student scores remained steady but the number of Native Americans who took the test rose by 9.5 percent from 2004 to 2005.

SAT Results:
PDF: SAT Score Gains for Most Racial/Ethnic Groups | Math Scores for 2005 Highest on Record | Tables | National and State Reports

Relevant Links:
College Board -