scantron_web.jpgTALLAHASSEE (AP) — Florida’s 2008 average SAT scores were only slightly better than last year in math and writing but down in reading, according to results released Tuesday.

That meant the state continued to rank in the bottom third nationally on all three sections of the college entrance test.

Florida’s black students, however, bested national averages for their ethnic group by four points in reading and one point in math but lagged in writing by two points. For Hispanics, Florida students did better than national averages for their ethnic group.

Here’s how Florida’s high school graduates scored:
– 497 in math, up one point from a year ago but 18 points below the national average (515).
– 481 in writing, up two points but 13 points below the national average (494).
– 496 in reading, down one point and 6 points below the national average (502).

These are the first SAT results released by the College Board since Eric J. Smith resigned as a senior vice president of the board to become Florida’s education commissioner.

Smith said he was pleased more Florida students took the exam this year because that indicates a greater number are pursuing a college education.

“I’m particularly pleased with the increased participation of minority students who not only had record numbers of participants, but outperformed their national counterparts on the reading and math sections of the exam,’’ Smith said.

Among the 50 states, Florida was tied with Indiana and North Carolina for 38th place in reading, tied with South Carolina for 47th in math and tied with Indiana and New York for 44th in writing. Florida outscored the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands on all three parts of the test.

SAT participation in the state was a record 98,578 overall. That’s 1,212 more than last year. While more minority students took the test, their participation rate was virtually unchanged. Both years 51 percent of test takers were white and the rest minorities or students who declined to provide ethnic or racial identifications.

The participation figure includes non-public schools. Private school students made up 15 percent of the total and scored well above the national average on all three parts of the test, keeping Florida from sinking lower.

Nationally, it was the second year in a row that scores remained at the lowest level in nearly a decade.

As in Florida, officials said the high number of test takers was largely responsible. A record 1.52 million students across the nation took the test this year. Minority students accounted for 40 percent of test-takers and 36 percent of those tested were the first in their families to attend college.

Florida students also did poorly on the ACT, another widely used entrance exam. Results released Aug. 13 showed Florida’s composite score down 0.1 from last year to 19.8. That was 48th among the 50 states.

State rankings on both tests are skewed by the number of students who take the exams. Higher participation in many cases results in lower scores.

Florida had the fifth-highest number of students taking the SAT behind California, New York, Texas and Pennsylvania. California is the only one of that group scoring higher than Florida on all three parts of the exam.

While Florida minorities outdid their national counterparts, the state’s white students fared worse. Florida whites, though, did improve their scores this year on all three parts of the test.

The year-to-year comparison was mixed for Florida’s minority students. Blacks improved in writing and equaled their reading and math scores of last year. Students of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage declined nearly across the board while other Hispanics improved in math and writing while holding steady in reading.

The College Board also released results for advanced placement tests given as part of individual high school courses.

While participation increased 13 percent to 117,698 students in Florida, the percentage earning scores of 3 or higher dropped by 2.8 percentage points to 42 percent compared to last year.

Test scores range from 1 to 5 with many colleges and universities giving students credit for scores of 3 or higher.