Male-female gap in SAT scores narrows

August 25, 1994|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- Citing significant strides in math and science by women of all ethnic backgrounds, the College Board says that the male-female gap on Scholastic Assessment Test scores continued to narrow among high school students last year.

Releasing the annual report on SAT scores, Donald A. Stewart, ** the president of the College Board, which oversees the tests, said:

"Since 1987, women have narrowed the male-female gaps in SAT scores by six points for math and verbal, even though they are the majority of SAT takers and come from families with less income and education than men -- factors which tend to depress scores."

For the past eight years, black women have improved their scores more than any other group on the SAT, the most frequently used standardized college admission test.

In 1987, the average verbal score for black women was 349, and in 1994, it edged up to 354. In 1987, the average math score for black women was 367, and in 1994, it was 381. For all groups in 1994, the verbal score was 423 and the math score was 479.

White men from higher income groups have historically done best on the SAT, prompting complaints that the test has gender and cultural biases. But the board insists that it has made strides to eliminate those problems.

In March, the College Board changed the SAT for the first time in 20 years to add more questions to test reading comprehension and analytical skill in math.

But most students took the old test this year; only 3.2 percent took the new test.

At a press briefing to explain the results Tuesday, Mr. Stewart attributed the narrowing gap between men and women, and especially the increase in scores of black women, to better preparation rather than to changes in the test itself.

"This narrowing of the gap has been a general trend for some time now," said Janice Gams, associate director for public affairs at the College Board.

Not unexpectedly, the board reported that students enrolled in rigorous, yearlong courses like pre-calculus and physics did better on the test than those enrolled in semester-long, standard courses.

Average scores for students from cities and rural areas were below the national average because, the board said, these regions tended to have fewer students enrolled in yearlong courses than suburban areas.

Eric P. Geisser, director of marketing for Kaplan Educational Centers, which gives SAT preparation tests, said the courses and test success cannot be correlated. "Generally those kids taking the more rigorous courses are studying more . . . ," he said.

The College Board also noted that grade inflation in high schools is apparently continuing: 32 percent of students had "A" averages in 1994, compared with 28 percent in 1987. But the average SAT score for this same group fell 6 to 15 points.

Board officials suspect that grade inflation may stem from teachers' efforts to motivate students, said Al Phillips, a data analyst for the board.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.