A SLIGHT increase in the 1992 Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores, the first upward movement since 1987, is a sign that the national education reforms of the last decade may be working. But education analysts caution that it is too soon to be certain.
Results released today show that average math scores rose 2 points, to 476. Verbal scores, up 1 point from last year's all-time low figure of 422, rose for the first time since 1985.
While no dramatic improvements have been made in scores this year, even one or two points is meaningful on a test taken by more than 1 million college-bound students, says Donald Stewart, president of the College Board, which sponsors the test. But education experts suggest cautious celebration of these results.
"When [scores] stay steady, the best you can say is that we have held our ground at a time when we have lost ground on [education] financing," says Calvin Frazier, a professor of education at the University of Denver.
Average math scores have dropped 17 points since 1969, but had remained steady since 1985.
Average verbal scores have dropped 40 points since 1969. A revised SAT, emphasizing more critical reading and vocabulary, will be implemented in the spring of 1994.
In a surprising turn, the gap between white and black students' SAT scores did not narrow for the first time in 15 years.
The increasing problems that black populations face in urban areas is one reason for a leveling off of black students' scores, says Professor Frazier.
As a new concern, this year's test statistics reflected the increased numbers of new immigrants in the US education system. Eight percent of 1992 test takers do not speak English as their first language, up from 5 percent in 1987.
Continuing to draw minorities to the SAT "is where our challenge lies," Stewart says. "This is more important that any other agenda of education."