With all the interest (264 comments and counting) generated by the huge number of Chinese and Korean names among the national merit semifinalists (top 0.5%) on the PSAT in California, here are the latest SAT scores from California. Interestingly, in California, whites average slightly higher than Asians / Pacific Islanders, both on the traditional M+V and the new three part total including Writing: whites 1641 to Asians 1614. (Nationally, however, Asians outscore whites 1636 to 1580.)
However, Asians / Pacific Islanders have higher standard deviations. (To view this tiny type more easily, you can hit "CTRL +")
|California 2010 SAT||Total||Crit Read||Math||Writing|
|College Bound seniors||#||Share||Mean||Mean||SD||Mean||SD||Mean||SD|
|Asian, As-Am, or Pac Isl||44,932||21%||1614||518||116||571||121||525||122|
|Black or Af Am||14,476||7%||1320||444||101||436||102||440||97|
|Mex or MA||42,380||20%||1355||449||95||458||96||448||90|
Commenter Mitch, a Bay Area testing tutor, has argued that because the PSAT is a low stakes test, which whites tend to treat as the beginning of thinking about studying for the SAT, while Asian parents tend to treat it as an important milestone in the years-long process of boning up for the SAT, the high number of Asian semifinalists in California on the PSAT is exaggerated relative to the high stakes SAT.
Being lazy, I'll leave it up to interested readers to do the work to evaluate this hypothesis and post their findings in the comments.
For example, questions to consider are: What exactly are the racial percentages of National Merit semifinalists in California? Do a higher percentage of Asian 17-year-olds take the SAT in California than do white 17-year-olds? (One thing not to worry about much in California is the SAT v. ACT divide that confuses things when thinking about SAT scores in, say, Iowa: California is traditionally an SAT state.) What is the nationality makeup of Asian / Pacific Islander 17-year-olds in California? What about taking the SAT multiple times -- how does that affect the numbers? (Okay, I found the answer to this last question: "Students are counted only once, no matter how often they tested, and only their latest scores and most recent SAT Questionnaire responses are summarized.) And so forth and so on.
By the way, this is the first bit of quantitative evidence I can recall to support the common-sense notion that California has smarter than the national average white people. Considering how damnably expensive it is and all the high end industries and all the Nobel Prizes, you would think it would have smart white people. But on the NAEP, California non-Hispanic whites always lag badly behind, say, Texan whites. And that was true way back on the big 1960 federal Project Talent test of 15-year-olds, where Texans beat Californians. So, numbers like that got me assuming that most white Californians are less Hewletts and Packards and more Bodines and Spicolis. But, maybe, white people in California just can't be bothered with trying on low stakes tests?