Figure 1-8 shows 6-year trends in the distribution of SAT math scores and changes in the number of test-takers for each racial/ethnic group. (See also appendix tables 1-19, 1-20, 1-21, 1-22, and 1-23.) In the case of whites, there was an overall decline in the number of test-takers and some declines in the proportion scoring between 250 and 450, as well as those scoring between 550 and 650. By contrast, the number of black test-takers increased, as did the number scoring between 300 and 500. Although the overall performance of blacks has improved, there has been little progress made toward raising the number of high-scoring blacks.
Asians not only outscored all other groups on the mathematics SAT from 1987 through 1992, they are also widening the gap between themselves and all other groups. More Asians are taking the test and are scoring at the highest levels. Indeed, the proportion of Asians scoring 750 or more almost doubled during the period, rising from 3 to 5 percent. At the same time, the percentage of Asians scoring below 450 dropped from 30 percent in 1987 to 27 percent in 1992.
Mexican Americans, Latin Americans, and Puerto Ricans all had increases in the number of test-takers. While all three groups continue to lag behind the national average, Latin Americans and Mexican Americans scored better than Puerto Ricans.
The decline in the number of Native Americans taking the SAT is of particular concern and warrants further investigation.
In comparing scores among the highest scoring students in each racial/ethnic group, certain patterns emerge. (See figure 1-9.) Large gaps exist between non-Asian minorities and whites; another gap is growing between Asians and all other groups. Given the Nation's ongoing demographic changes, these gaps among the highest scorers have important consequences for the pool of future U.S. scientists and engineers.
The total number of Asians scoring at high levels on the math SAT has increased dramatically-Asians have had a 46-percent increase in the number of students scoring above 600 on the mathematics SAT since 1987. By contrast, blacks had a 22-percent increase, and whites a 16-percent decrease, in the total number of test-takers scoring above 600. However, the slight increase in the percentages of blacks and Puerto Ricans scoring at or above 600 on the math SAT from 1987 to 1992-and the slight decline among whites, Mexican Americans, and Latin Americans-suggests a lack of progress in increasing the portion of U.S. students likely to be well-prepared for college-level work in mathematics or the sciences. Note that the 2-percentage point increase for Native Americans reflects a decline in the number of test-takers, rather than an increase in the number who scored at or above 600.
Engineering is a field that often attracts the Nation's top mathematics and science students. Therefore, students who indicate a planned major in engineering are likely to be top scorers on the mathematics SAT. Among students indicating that they intended to major in engineering, there were significant gaps in the mean SAT mathematics scores between whites and Asians, on the one hand, and between Native Americans, blacks, Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Latin Americans on the other hand. In addition, the mean score of Asian students intending to major in engineering increased more rapidly than that of any other group, moving them well ahead of whites and further widening the gap between them and the other racial/ethnic groups.