For the first time, Latino students in California public schools represented a larger percentage of SAT test-takers than any other ethnic group, according to SAT scores test administrator The College Board released Monday.

Minories accounted for nearly 70 percent of California public school students in the class of 2012 who took the test, and of those, 36 percent--or 69,832 students--were Latino. This compares to 29 percent--or 56,590 test-takers--who were white; 22 percent--or 42,121 test-takers--who were Asian; and 7 percent--or 13,101 test-takers--who were African American.

"It's wonderful to see the diversity of California reflected among our highest-achieving students and those who have their sights set on a college education," State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in a statement released Monday.

Nearly half of public school SAT takers in California reported that English was not exclusively their first language and that their parents' highest level of education was a high school diploma or less.

Some 194,425 California public school students--or 50 percent--of seniors in this year's class took the test at some point during their high school careers, which is a 2 percentage-point gain from last year and an 8 percentage-point gain over 10 years, The College Board data showed.

Nationally, 1,664,479 members of the class of 2012 (of which 1,284,459 attended public schools) took the SAT, considered a precursor to college admission. Statewide, a total of 231,964 students attending either public or private California high schools took the test.

The mean writing score of this year's California public school students decreased 3 points from last year to 491. Critical reading scores dropped 3 points to 491, and the mean math score dropped 3 points to 510.

The increase in the participation rate may have resulted in the decline of the mean scores, The College Board said.

The California class of 2012 sent SAT and/or SAT Subject Test scores to 2,823 institutions, and 58 percent of students indicated they planned to attain a bachelor's or a master's degree, while 23 percent would like to attain a doctoral degree.