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ArlingtonEducationVa. SAT scores up, but participation way down

Va. SAT scores up, but participation way down

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While average SAT scores among members of the Class of 2021 in Virginia were up, state education officials – who released the data – were cautious about taking a victory lap.

The reason? Average scores were higher, but number of Virginia high-school seniors taking the exam plummeted, due in large part to the pandemic.

Only 38,927 Virginia 2021 graduating seniors – just 41 percent – took the college-entrance exam, down from 58,485 members (65 percent) of the Class of 2020, Virginia Department of Education officials said.

While some of that decline is due to more institutions of higher education opting to making the tests optional or eliminating their consideration altogether, the largest part of the shortfall no doubt comes from the inability of students to physically take the tests in the COVID environment.


The results represent “a snapshot of achievement … during an extraordinary year,” Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said. “Virginia students continue to perform well above their peers nationwide.”

The average test score achieved by members of the Class of 2021 stood at 1151 (out of a possible 1600), up from 1116 a year before.

While test scores continues to vary among racial and ethnic groups, they were up across the board in 2021:

• Asian students: The average score of 1264 was up from 1241.
• Black students: The average score of 1009 was up from 967.
• Hispanic students: The average score of 1088 was up from 1065.
• White students: The average score of 1172 was up from 1153.
• Two or more races: The average score of 1157 was up from 1116.

Part of the increase is probably explained by the likelihood that only those who needed to take the exams, largely those college-bound, sat for them, while those with less necessity for test results opted to skip them.

If so, that larger percentage of higher-performing students in the smaller overall pool of participants would seem likely to push scores higher.

Of Virginia seniors who took the SATs, 63 percent met or exceeded the College Board’s college-readiness benchmarks in the reading/writing and mathematics portions of the exam, compared to 46 percent of all seniors who took the test nationally last year and up from 55 percent among Virginia seniors in 2020.

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