Will the change to the SAT help or harm Black students?

Throughout the history of the SAT and ACT, Black students’ average scores have been the lowest among all race groups. Currently, the national average for Black students on the ACT is 17, compared with 22 for White students, and the national average for Black students on the SAT is 860, compared with 1,061 for White students. Black students’ scores on the SAT and ACT have been relatively flat for the last 20 years, although significant gains have been made in Black students’ graduation rates and college-degree attainment.

The disparity in those numbers raises questions about the significance of the SAT in predicting long-term college success for African Americans—or any student, for that matter. Reasons for lower standardized test scores among Black students have been debated in the academic literature as well as in public discourse. Some question the validity and reliability of the tests, while others assert that the systemic impact of racial oppression and poverty diminishes Black students’ performance on the tests. Other, more extreme explanations purport that Black students’ performance is diminished because of natural cognitive deficits or corrupted cultural values.

However, as Black families and the Black community have sought to reconcile low test scores, test manufacturers have been grappling with research suggesting that the ACT and SAT do not predict college success.