The racial divide among students taking the SAT

Ohio's black students gain, but lag behind peers

Average overall scores for black high schoolers taking the SAT in Ohio have improved over the past three years.

But those students were still the poorest performers on the nation’s oldest college-prep exam.

Ohio’s black students were not alone. Nationwide, average overall scores for black college-bound students were 75 or more points below their peers in 2013.

Results were just as frustrating last year for Ohio’s black students who took the ACT, now the most popular exam among college-bound U.S. students.

Ohio’s average score of 17.8 was nearly identical to the national average for blacks – in each case, the lowest among any race or ethnic group.

Some educators believe the racial divide in test results has a chilling effect on efforts to diversify college campuses.

For more than a century, the exam has been a screening tool for admissions staff to determine if students are prepared for college-level coursework.

Poor scores that hinder college admission also may be the first obstacle for talented young black students pursuing dreams of higher-paying professional jobs.

Research points to age-old reasons for the racial gap on both exams:  Differences in income, lifestyle and course study among black youths and their peers, and inadequate funding and resources in urban public schools with large black populations.

In Ohio, however, there’s reason for optimism. The small, steady gains made by black test-takers since 2011 buck a national trend.

Overall SAT scores for black students across the U.S. have dropped 13 points since 2006.

The rise in Ohio scores coincides with a stiff drop in the number of black test-takers over that period – an average of about 400 students per year – and lower participation rates.

Research suggests that high participation rates mean a larger percentage of lower-achieving students taking the test, and lower average scores.

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