PRESS RELEASE - August 26, 2003
New Mexico State Department
of Education

300 Don Gaspar
Santa Fe, NM 87501-2786

Ruth Williams
Public Outreach Director
(505) 476-0393

College-Bound Students Outperform Nation on SAT as Achievement Gap Widens for Indians and Blacks

(Santa Fe, NM)--New Mexico’s college-bound students scored higher in 2003 than their national peers on the SAT® I (Scholastic Assessment Test), a major college entrance examination measuring verbal and mathematical reasoning skills. The College Board, which administers the exam, reports that on a 200 to 800 scale, New Mexico students averaged a score of 548 on the verbal portion of the test and 540 on the math portion, compared with national averages of 507 on the verbal and 519 on the math.

The College Board reports that 14 percent of New Mexico’s high school graduates, or 2,617 students, including 76 percent from public schools, took the SAT. This compares to a national public school participation of 83 percent.

The scores of the state’s public school college-bound students also exceeded the national average. The average verbal and math scores for these test takers were 541 and 532, respectively, as compared to national averages for public school students of 503 on the verbal portion and 513 on the math portion.

But in New Mexico’s public schools, American Indian verbal and math performance reflects five-year lows (from 506 in 1999 to 419 in 2003 on the verbal and from 497 in 1999 to 416 in 2003 on the math), with Blacks experiencing significant declines from last year (from 481 to 450 in verbal and from 476 to 426 in math). These scores are not consistent with the national performance of American Indians and Blacks from public schools. Nationally, in verbal performance, American Indians increased from 478 to 479, from a high of 482 in 1999, and Blacks increased from 425 to 428. And in math, American Indians decreased from 483 to 482, as compared to 480 in 1999, and Blacks increased from 423 to 424, a five-year high.

“The key message from this year’s SAT scores is that too many of our minorities are under-challenged, and the achievement gap is widening. Our students need and deserve a high school environment that has high expectations for their success. Students should be administered the PSAT (preliminary SAT) in their sophomore and junior years so they gain test-taking skills. And schools should carefully use the data from the PSAT and SAT to drive instruction. Our high schools must do more to challenge students, especially minority students, in New Mexico. We can and must do a better job of preparing them for their next steps in life,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael J. Davis.