Press Releases


Connecticut’s 2003 Grads Continue Strong Performance on SAT

Verbal Score Up Three Points; Math Up Five Points; Total At 29-Year High, Connecticut is Second Among the States in SAT Test Participation

(HARTFORD, CT) Connecticut’s 2003 high school graduates recorded the highest combined average SAT scores in twenty-nine years—even with a record percentage of students taking the exam in anticipation of attending college this fall. “This is the goal all states have – high numbers of students taking the test and aspiring to higher education combined with overall strong performance,” said State Education Commissioner Theodore S. Sergi in announcing the scores.

This year, 32,771 Connecticut high school graduates took the SAT – an increase of almost 1,400 students over last year and the highest number in over 25 years in the state. (See page 10).

Connecticut’s combined average score was up eight points to 1026 – equal to the national average, which increased six points from last year. (The national average reflects a participation rate of about 5 of 10 high school graduates compared with Connecticut’s rate of more than 8 in 10.)

Connecticut’s performance represents:

  • the highest participation rate ever recorded in Connecticut--over 84% -- since the inception of the SAT;
  • Connecticut’s highest combined score since 1974 a five point increase in mathematics, bringing the average to the highest level since the data were first reported by graduating class thirty-one years ago; a three point increase in verbal scores bringing it to the highest level in fourteen years increases in participation on Advanced Placement (AP) tests, SAT II Subject Tests and PSAT/NMSQT. (The PSAT/National Merit Scholar Qualifying Test is the prep test for the SAT I)


Despite Connecticut’s strong overall performance, Sergi said he wants to see more low income and minority students from Connecticut’s cities and rural areas prepare for and take the SAT. “Higher education should be within everyone’s reach.”

Commissioner Sergi pointed out, "Although our overall results are very good, there are continuing challenges concerning the gaps in achievement among groups identified by family income, parents' education, race and gender. We continue to see significant need for improvement in this area."

The persistent gap between minority and non-minority student scores continues to reflect the economic conditions and disparities in Connecticut. “We know that we can close this achievement gap by addressing issues of preparation and expectations.”

The Commissioner pointed out that those who first took the PSAT as juniors scored 998 (average) on the SAT and those who first took the PSAT before their junior year scored 1102. Those who did not take the PSAT scored 914 on the SAT.

“Preparing for and taking the SAT is a vital step on the path toward higher achievement and advanced study.”

One of the most glaring gaps we see in Connecticut’s achievement data is that minority, poor and urban students are preparing for and taking the PSAT in far lower numbers than are white students.

“Suburban students are preparing for and taking the PSAT at a much greater rate than students in our cities in preparation for the SAT. Greater numbers of students—especially those in our cities --should take the PSAT in the 10th and 11th Grades." The College Board is working with urban high schools to provide more students with opportunities to take the PSAT.

“I am pleased to see an increase in access to and participation in the PSAT. But there are still 5,000 students who take the SAT but not the PSAT. I would like to see even more of this year’s junior class prepare for and take this important pre-test. We believe every school district, school and educator has an obligation to help develop student skills that are assessed on the PSAT and SAT,” said Sergi.

Average total scores for Black students increased nine points to 835, bringing them to within two points of the high recorded in 2000. The scores of Hispanic students increased five points to 882, while the Asian average declined by seven points to 1075, the highest of any racial ethnic group. (See chart on page 9.) The percentage of all minority students taking the SAT generally reflects the overall minority percentage of high school seniors in Connecticut public schools. Almost 24% of the 2003 test takers in Connecticut were minority students –1.8 percentage points above last year’s level and the highest ever recorded. By comparison, 26.9% of Connecticut’s public school seniors in 2002 were members of minority groups. Minorities represented about 36 percent of the test-takers nationally.

The SAT performance gap between males and females widened.

While females’ average scores on the SAT I mathematical improved by two points, the male average increased by seven points. This widened the gap from the 30-point low set last year to 35 points. A two-point decline in the female verbal average coupled with the eight-point increase by males, increased the gap to ten points. This is the largest gap since the 16-point difference observed in 1989. Males outscore females 517 to 507 in verbal and 532 versus 497 in mathematical. In mathematics, males outperformed females on the PSAT as juniors and on the Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) as sophomores. In the verbal area, males outperformed females as juniors on the PSAT, but on CAPT reading, females outperformed males. Writing will be introduced into the SAT in March 2005 and Verbal will become critical Reading. Females from the class of 2003 outperformed males in writing as juniors on the PSAT and on CAPT writing as sophomores.


Connecticut’s performance was among the best in the nation when taking into account both participation rate and average score: second in participation and seventh among 23 states with participation rates 50 percent and above. (See charts and graph on page 5.)

Connecticut’s percentage of students scoring 600 and above on the verbal (23.6%) and math (25.9%) sections shows that high numbers of the state’s students are performing well above the national average on the SAT. The percentage in math is the highest since we began to track this in 1977. Nationally, 26.2 percent of SAT-I takers scored above 600 in math, also the highest percentage since 1977. Connecticut’s verbal percentage above 600 was up by 0.7 percentage points from last year’s state figure, the highest in the past fourteen years, and above the 21.9 percent recorded nationally. “We are extremely pleased that even with Connecticut’s broad-based participation on the SAT, our state performs very well compared to the nation on those scoring above 600 on these tests.”

The 2003 SAT Report shows that more Connecticut students are considering pursuing higher education in state. Connecticut’s colleges and universities received SAT scores from increasing numbers of Connecticut students. The University of Connecticut received the most SAT scores (10,991 compared with 9,869 last year.) Central Connecticut State University received 5,459 compared with 4,786 in 2002. Eastern Connecticut State University received 3,256 compared with 3,116 last year. Southern increased to 4,197 from 3,727 and Western increased to 2,490 from 2,114. As a whole, applications to the four CSU campuses from CT graduates increased 11.7 percent from 13,793 to 15,402 in the past year.

Connecticut student performance was strong in just about all categories with most scores the highest in many years:

  • Average verbal score (male): up eight points – highest level in fourteen years.
  • Average verbal score (female): down two points – exceeds the average for the past ten years.
  • Average math score (male): up seven points – highest score in three decades.
  • Average math score (female): up two points –highest score in three decades.

In Connecticut, 22% of all graduates took at least one of the SAT II Subject Tests (formerly known as Achievement Tests.) This rate is well over twice the national rate of nine percent. Connecticut scores on the three most popular tests (Writing, Math 1C and American History) were down 6, up 4, down 2 points, respectively, over last year. Connecticut student scores on five of eight SAT II tests, taken by at least 1,000 Connecticut students, were above students nationally. Connecticut's average SAT II Writing score of 613 was well above the national average of 596.

More Connecticut students are taking Advanced Placement (AP) exams and earning college credit. The number of AP candidates in Connecticut increased by seven percent to 16,110 (public and private schools). The number of public school candidates rose to 11,736 -- an increase of 725 (6.6%) from last year. Connecticut’s public school passing rate (scores 3-5) decreased from 72.3% to 71.8%. The national average is 59.8%

Connecticut's PSAT/NMSQT participation is the highest ever with scores essentially unchanged. Participation as measured by both the percentage of high school juniors taking the test and percentage of SAT-takers who took the PSAT/NMSQT, increased. In October 2002, 28,356 juniors took the PSAT/NMSQT, an increase of 1260 students (4.7%) over the previous fall. This represented 63.6% of the junior class, the highest percentage ever recorded. An estimated 83% of this year’s SAT takers took the PSAT/NMSQT. The average verbal score of 48.8 is 0.1 point below last year. It still exceeds the national average of 48.0. The math average of 49.0 is 0.1 points above last year and 0.2 points below the national average.


Because participation rates differ from state to state, it is inappropriate to compare individual states' average SAT scores. "It is also inappropriate to consider this exam as the sole indicator of student achievement," said Sergi. "However, these scores do offer some insight on Connecticut students' performance relative to the national average."

Connecticut ranked 2nd among the states in SAT participation rate – the percentage of graduates who take the test - nearly twice the average of other states. The only other state to have such extensive participation in the SAT is New Jersey, which reported 85 percent participation and had a total average score of 1016 – ten points below Connecticut. (When larger percentages of students take the SAT, scores reflect a wider range of students who aspire to attend higher education).

According to the College Board, which administers the SAT, "The most significant factor in interpreting SAT scores is the proportion of eligible students taking the exam--the participation rate. In general, the higher the percentage of students taking the test, the lower the average scores. In some states, a very small percentage of seniors take the SAT. Typically, these students have strong academic backgrounds and are applicants to the nation's most selective colleges and scholarship programs. Therefore, it is to be expected that the SAT verbal and mathematical averages reported for these states will be higher than the national average. In states where a greater proportion of students with a wide range of academic backgrounds take the SAT, and where most colleges in the state require the test for admission, the scores are closer to the national average.” These students would also tend to artificially inflate the national average, thus distorting the performance of those states that have a majority of their college-bound students take the SAT-I.

The SAT is only one indicator of student academic performance. Connecticut’s annual Strategic School Profiles (SSP) and annual Condition of Education provide other information on student achievement and on our public schools. This information is available at the Department’s web site at


High schools around the state will announce their average scores during the next few weeks.

The Commissioner advised that, “Because most school districts have a small number of test takers, it is possible –even likely—to see swings in average scores from year to year. Similarly, on a statewide level, a one-year jump or drop in average scores is not cause for declaration of victory or defeat. However, when we look at our students’ scores over the years, we see some very positive trends for Connecticut in terms of strong participation and a trend of improved student performance. These signs of gradual improvement should be a further motivation for parents, teachers and students to do even better, and for more students to consider taking the exam.” Sergi said a new Department initiative that will ask community groups to reach out to parents in Connecticut’s cities will work to this end.

Writing Test to be Added to SAT I in 2005

The College Board, which administers the SAT program, plans to introduce a new component to the SAT I in 2005. The new writing assessment will become part of the SAT along with changes to the Verbal Section. Contact the College Board for further information.

(The charts and graphs on the following pages may be reproduced with attribution to The College Board and Connecticut Department of Education.)

Connecticut Average SAT Scores for Males and Females
 Participation Verbal Mathematics
 Year Rate* Male Female Male Female
 2003  84.2%  517  507  532  497
 2002  83.8%  509  509  525  495
 2001  83.6%  513  505   527  494
 2000  83.4%  509  508  526  494
 1999  83.7%  511  509  525  493
 1998  81.7%  513  507  526  493
 1993  80.2%  507  504  517  478
 1983  68.2%  515  507  513  472

* Estimated by Connecticut State Department of Education

Connecticut Average Total SAT Score by Racial/Ethnic Group
 Year Black Asian Hispanic White Total
 2003 835  1075 882 1058 1026
2002 824 1082 877 1050 1018
2001 836 1069 890 1054 1019
2000 837 1073 876 1052 1017
1999 826 1073 884 1052 1019
1998 834 1063 882 1050 1019
1993 822 1019 872 1030 1004
1983 805 1036 829 1024 10003

NOTE: All scores have been recentered.

How Have Connecticut College-Bound Students Changed in 10 Years?

Based on high school students who took the SAT I Reasoning Test prior to graduation in 1993 and 2003

Course patterns changing
   1993 2003
English Composition 79 62
Pre-Calculus 30 41
 Calculus 14 20
Physics 44 43
US Government/Civics 43 43
Economics 21 13
Spanish 59 67


Academic goals are rising
   1993 2003
Certificate Program  2 1
Associate Degree 2 1
Bachelor's Degree 26 24
Master's Degree 26 30
Doctoral/related degree 16 15
Other 1 1
Undecided 27 27


More students are getting A’s
  1993 2003
A+, A, A- grade averages 18 27
B grade averages 58 58
C grade averages 23 15


More Students

Are seeking financial aid
 1993 2003
71  73


Ethnic diversity increasing
  1993 2003
American Indian/Alaskan Native 1 1
Asian American 4 4
Black 8 9
Mexican American 0 0
Puerto Rican 3 4
Hispanic or Latino 2 3
White 81 76
Other 2 4


Education second most popular

career choice
  1993 2003
Education 9 12
Business  16 13
Social Science/History 14 11
Health-related 15 12
Arts: Visual & Performing 7 9
Engineering 7 6
Computer/Information Science 2 5
Biological Sciences 5 5


Scores up, gaps persist
  1993 2003
Male 507 517
Female 504 507
Male 517 532
Female 480 497


Parental education is rising
  1993 2003
No High School Diploma 4 3
High School Diploma 36 33
Associate Degree 7 9
Bachelor's Degree 26 27
Graduate Degree 26 28


Grades are rising*

1993 2003
Art and Music 3.54 3.63
English 2.93 3.09
Mathematics 2.84 2.97
Natural Sciences 2.90 3.04
Social Sciences/History 3.00 3.15
World Languages 2.88 3.02
All Subject Areas 2.94 3.09


* Based on 4-point system, where A=4.00

Language diversity is level
  1993 2003
English  87 86
English and Another 7 8
Another Language 7 7


US citizenship is level
  1993 2003
U.S. Citizenship 94 95
Permanent Resident 4 3
Citizen of Another Country 2 1


More Students

from public schools
  1993  2003
Public 76 79
Religious Affiliated 13  10
Independent 12 10


Percentage of women level
  1993 2003
Percentage of Women 51 53


Bold = above US average; Italics = below US average

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Contact: Tom Murphy 860-713-6525