Virginia students saw their highest scores ever on the modern SAT college admission test this year, even as national averages remained unchanged, according to data for the Class of 2013 released Thursday.
The College Board, the organization that oversees the test, reported that Virginia students who graduated in the spring scored 11 points better than those in the Class of 2012 who took the exam, with an average of 1528 out of 2400, beating the national average of 1498. Virginia officials attributed the boost to factors including increased rigor in classroom curriculum and improvements in teacher evaluation and preparation. All state-level figures from the College Board include public and private schools.
"It's impressive to see such a significant jump in one year," said David Foster, president of the Virginia Board of Education. "We saw increases across the board and some narrowing of the achievement gap."
It made for Virginia's best-ever overall score on the current version of the SAT, which dates to 2005.
The SAT and the other major college entrance exam, the ACT, are crucial for students seeking admission to selective schools. The SAT has a much greater presence in Virginia.
Nationally, the results for the Class of 2013 mirrored those for the preceding year's class. Average scores in critical reading (496), math (514) and writing (488) were unchanged. Each section of the exam is worth 800 points.
The share of students who met or exceeded a benchmark that the College Board considers a key predictor of "college and career readiness" - a composite score of 1550 - has been virtually unchanged for the past five years. The share now stands at 43 percent.
That means 57 percent of this year's high school graduates who took the test did not meet the readiness benchmark.
In February, officials announced that the College Board plans a makeover of the SAT.
In Virginia, SAT participation was down slightly, which Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright said could be an "artifact of the economy," a reflection of students choosing the ACT or evidence of students opting for institutions that do not require such exams.
Still, minority participation was up, and, overall, Wright said, "I'm most pleased that we're beginning to close some gaps between white students and minorities."
Gaps are still large, but Virginia reported that black students scored higher in critical reading, math and writing. Hispanic students improved in reading and math, with no change in writing.
The newly released data show notable growth in minority student participation nationally in recent years. The share of SAT test takers of racial or ethnic minority background was 46 percent for the Class of 2013, up from 40 percent in 2009. Hispanic, black and American Indian students accounted for 30 percent of the testing pool, up from 27 percent in 2009.