More students are taking college entrance exams statewide, particularly minorities, the Texas Education Agency said Monday in a report that interprets College Board data on the SAT performance of the 2012 graduating class.
Statewide, Hispanic student test takers have increased by 65 percent since the 2007-08 school year, while the number of African-American public school students taking the SAT was up by 42 percent. Asian participation increased by 29 percent. The number of Anglo SAT test takers increased by 9 percent.
"We are clearly building a college-going culture in Texas," said Michael Williams, Texas education commissioner. "The increased minority participation is important to the health of this state because of our changing demographics."
There were 135,357 Hispanics in the state's 2012 graduating class of 298,379 students. The second-largest group was Anglo students, at 105,829.
Among last year's graduating class, 58 percent took the SAT, up more than 5 percent from 2011. When private-school and home-schooled students are included, 62 percent of seniors took the exam, more than a 4 percent increase.
Tarrant area school districts reported bright spots in overall participation and scores.
Monday night, the Grapevine-Colleyville school board heard a report that showed scores well ahead of those for both the state and the nation, although the total number of SAT test takers was holding steady or was down by a handful of students from last year.
Gayle Smith, director of assessment, research and evaluation for the Grapevine-Colleyville district, reported a slight decline in the district's SAT test takers, though more students took both the SAT and ACT.
"Students performed significantly better in reading, math and writing," Smith said, "stomping" the results from both the state and the nation.
The average SAT score for Grapevine-Colleyville seniors was 541, besting the national average of 496 and the state's 474. Their ACT composite score was 24.3, well above the nation's 21.1 and Texas' 20.8.
The district's ACT participation rose from 527 in 2011 to 583 in 2012, while the SAT number declined from 833 to 803.
The Fort Worth school district has shown steady growth in the number of SAT test takers, by as much as 10 to 20 percent over four years, according to Sara Arispe, executive director of Accountability and Data Quality.
From 2008 to 2012, the percentage of Fort Worth graduating seniors districtwide taking the SAT test increased from 51 to 61 percent.
African-American students increased their SAT participation from 51 to 72 percent over the four years, while Hispanic students increased test-taking from 38 to 53 percent.
SAT participation for Anglo students in Fort Worth schools increased from 61 to 73 percent.
A total of 647 Birdville district students took the SAT this year, and 418 took the ACT college entrance exam. Richland High School scored higher than the national and state averages in all areas, and the district's critical reading and math scores were 20 percent higher than the state average.
"I am proud of the students' performance on the SAT and ACT tests," Superintendent Darrell Brown said in a news release.
He stressed the district's early steps that have helped students increase their college entrance testing scores over the past few years.
Birdville will continue to require sophomores and juniors to take the PSAT in October at district expense, Brown said.
Scores fell overall for public school students in Texas and nationally during 2012, the Texas Education Agency reported.
Texas ranked 19th among the 50 states in public school student participation. Participation rates ranged from 100 percent in Delaware and Maine down to 2 percent in North Dakota.
Nationwide, reading scores on the SAT for the high school class of 2012 reached a four-decade low, putting a punctuation mark on a gradual decline in the ability of college-bound teens to read passages and answer questions about sentence structure, vocabulary and meaning on the college entrance exam.
Scores among every racial group except for those of Asian descent declined from 2006. A majority of test takers -- 57 percent -- did not score high enough to indicate likely success in college, according to the College Board, which administers the test.
The national trends are alarming and should serve as "a call to action," College Board President Gaston Caperton said. "When less than half of kids who want to go to college are prepared to do so, that system is failing."
This report includes material from The Washington Post.
Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657