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Native college students show dramatic gains on SAT

American Indian and Alaska Native students have shown record improvement on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) for college admission, according to statistics released this week.

Results of this year's SAT showed that Native students improved their scores on the verbal portion by 3 points. This was the second highest gain among all racial and ethnic groups and well ahead of the national average gain of 1 point.

Even greater achievement was shown on the math portion of the test. Native students registered a whopping 6-point gain -- the highest of any racial or ethnic group. In fact, the national average score on this portion dropped by 1 point.

"Among the most promising findings this year are the SAT math and verbal score gains among Mexican American, Other Hispanic, and American Indian students," said Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board, which administers the test to thousands of college-bound high school seniors every year.

This year's average score of 483 on the verbal and 488 on the math reflected a long-term trend of improvement among American Indian and Alaska Native seniors. Over the past 10 years, Native students have shown strong gains on both portions of the test, which is graded on a 200-800 scale.

During this time, Native students saw a 10-point increase on the verbal portion of the test. This was the third highest gain of all racial and ethnic groups but still higher than the national average gain of nine points.

The improvement on the math portion was even more impressive. Over the past decade, Native students saw an 18-point increase, second only to Asian-Americans and higher than the national average gain of 14 points.

Statistics varied from state to state. In Oklahoma, which has an 11.4 percent Native population, Native students recorded extremely high scores on the test, surpassed only by White students on the verbal and Asian students on the math.

In New Mexico, where 10.5 percent of the population is Native, the picture looked a lot different. American Indian and Alaskan Native students had the lowest average score on the verbal portion and the second-lowest average score on the math portion.

Of all the states, California had the largest number of Native students taking the SAT. Here, Native students had the third best scores on both the verbal and math portions of the test.

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.

According to the College Board, about 1 percent of students who took the test this year were Native. Of those, 46 percent are first-generation college students.

The Board doesn't analyze why test scores change from year to year but one explanation can be found in the growing number of Native students who take advanced math courses in high school. Among Natives, 38 percent, up from 25 percent a decade ago, said they took pre-calculus while 19 percent, up from 12 percent, took calculus. This trend was mirrored nationwide.

On the other hand, the number of Native and other students taking English courses. Last year, only 60 percent of Native students, down from 71 percent a decade ago, said they took English composition while only 65 percent, down from 76 percent, said they took grammar.

The average grade point average (GPA) of Native students was 3.18 on a 4.0 scale, according to the College Board. This was lower than the GPA of White and Asian students and only slightly lower than that of Mexican students.

Relevant Documents:
2004 National Report | State Reports

Relevant Links:
College Board -