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Minorities boost their College Board scores. Results hold steady for US aptitude-test takers as a group in last 10 years

Minority high school students - particularly blacks - are making notable gains in Scholastic Aptitude Test scores, according to a College Board report released today. While average national scores have not risen more than four points above 1976 averages, black students' scores - although still well below the national average - have increased significantly in the past 10 years, up 20 points on the math portion of the test and 21 points on the verbal.

According to College Board president Donald M. Stewart, the improvement in minority scores is mainly because of a ``self-selecting'' process. The better-prepared minority students are choosing to attend college. Less-qualified students are not taking the SAT.

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Dr. Stewart concedes that a greater emphasis on preparing minorities for college in public high schools may have helped to increase minorities' test scores, but he emphasizes the work that still needs to be done.

``If we continue at the current rate [of increase in test scores of minorities],'' Stewart says, ``it will still be another 45 years before real parity between black-Hispanic and white scores is achieved.''

National average scores for the SAT remained fairly steady this year, with a one-point increase to 476 in math and a one-point dip in the average verbal score to 430. Black test takers - 59 percent of whom were women - averaged 377 math and 351 verbal this year.

Sponsored by the College Board, the SAT is a two-part multiple-choice examination with verbal and math sections scored on a scale of 200 to 800.

While the SAT is widely used for entrance to America's colleges, some critics say the SAT and tests like it are biased in favor of male students, whites, and the wealthy. Statistics in this year's report may support such a charge. The report, ``College Bound Seniors: 1987 Profile of SAT and Achievement Test Takers,'' supplied for the first time scores according to family income. It showed marked differences in the scores of affluent and poor students.

Those students from families with an annual income of less than $10,000 averaged 416 math and 364 verbal, while test takers with a family income of $70,000 or more had average scores of 523 math and 471 verbal.

In addition, students whose parents had no more than a high school diploma (38 percent of students who took the test) had average scores of 446 math and 404 verbal, while the scores of students with at least one parent holding an advanced degree (24 percent of test takers) were 523 math and 478 verbal.

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Stewart says such statistics do not indicate a test bias. Those with higher incomes just tend to go to better schools and get a better education, he says. The scores point to deficiences in the education system, not the SAT, he adds.

The report also found that male students are continuing to receive higher scores than their female counterparts. Men averaged 500 math and 435 verbal this year, while the national averages for women were 453 math and 425 verbal.

Researchers have not yet been able to explain the discrepancy. Many say men outperform women on the math portion of the SAT because they tend to take more math courses than women.

Some suggest that verbal scores are higher for men because women today are reading less than they used to, although that theory has not been proved.

But Stewart says that ``it is clearly a matter of preparation, not ability.''

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