Average scores on the SAT college entrance exam held steady this year as a record number of students and more minorities than ever took the test, according to a report released Monday.
The status quo is an improvement over the slight downward trend over the previous five years. The high school class of 2010 earned a combined score of 1509 on the three sections of the exam, identical to last year's results. The average writing score dropped one point, math scores edged up one point, and reading results didn't budge.
The average SAT score remains down nine points since 2006, when the writing section was first included and the test moved to a combined 2400-point scale.
Officials with the College Board, which administers the test, warned against reading too much into slight year-to-year movement, instead using the findings to argue for greater academic rigor in U.S. high schools.
SAT test-takers from the class of 2010 who completed a core curriculum — defined as four or more years of English and three or more years of math, natural science, social science and history — scored on average 151 points higher than those who did not. Not surprisingly, students in honors and advanced placement courses also outperformed others.
A growing number of states are setting higher bars for students. Nearly 40 states have adopted Common Core State Standards, which establish uniform expectations for what students should learn by the time they finish high school.
"As high schools nationwide continue to move in the direction of rigorous coursework available to all students, we do think we'll see (SAT) scores going up over time," said Laurence Bunin, a senior vice president with the College Board.
At the same time, the growing diversity of the SAT text-taking pool also factors in the results, Bunin said.
Of the SAT takers in the class of 2010, 41.5 percent were minorities, up from 40 percent in 2009 and 28.6 percent in 2000. Most minority groups — with Asian-American students being the exception — score lower than the average.
Asian-American students posted gains in all three sections of the SAT and outperformed other racial groups; their combined score rose 13 points over 2009.
Nearly 1.6 million students took the SAT this year. It remains the most popular college entrance exam, but not by much. The rival ACT has been gaining. Only about 28,000 more members of the class of 2010 took the SAT than the ACT.
ACT results released last month showed last spring's high-school seniors averaged a composite score of 21.0 on the test's scale of 1 to 36, down slightly from 21.1 the year before.
Most colleges accept either the ACT or SAT, and a growing minority no longer requires either one.