More students than ever are taking the SAT college preparedness test, but the average scores are flat or slightly down, according to results released by the College Board Monday.

College Board officials said the results show only 43 percent of SAT takers in the Class of 2012 academically ready for college. Board President Gaston Caperton said the report should serve as a call to action.

"Our nation's future depends on the strength of our education system. When less than half of kids who want to go to college are prepared to do so, that system is failing," he said in a prepared statement.

In Connecticut, the average 2012 reading score fell three points, from 509 to 506. The average math score was 512, a point lower than the 513 average score in 2011. Writing scores dipped three points, from 513 to 510.

While Darien High School's scores dropped slightly, the district scores were still above the state average.

Darien High School had a higher math score than New Canaan, Greenwich, Stamford, Westport and Norwalk, with an average of 606. Darien also had higher reading and writing scores than Greenwich, Stamford and Norwalk, with averages of 579 and 591, respectively.

New Canaan was higher than Darien by 12 points in reading and by nine points in writing. And Westport scored higher in Darien by 10 points in reading and by 10 points in writing.

Darien's average SAT scores have dropped since last year. In 2011 the high school had an average of 616 in math, 589 in reading and in 603 writing.

Nationwide, the average reading score in 2012 was 496, down from 497 in 2011. The average math score was 514, the same as last year. Writing was down a point, from 482 to 481. The most a student can score on any section is 800.

Participation in Connecticut, however, remains high. In 2012, there were 36,469 test-takers, representing about 88 percent of the senior class in both public and private schools. Nationwide, more than 1.66 million high school seniors took the test, even as a number of colleges moved away from requiring SAT results as part of their admissions process.

State Department of Education officials say this year was the most diverse group of graduating seniors to take the SAT. The number of test-takers who identified themselves as Hispanic and Asian was significantly higher in 2012 than in 2011. Connecticut ranks fifth in the nation in SAT participation.

Some said the nation's heavy emphasis on testing is making things worse, not better.

Bob Schaeffer, director of FairTest, a nonprofit advocacy organization focusing on standardized tests, said students are less ready for college than they were six years ago. He said scores have been slipping for several years.

"If you believe the College Board's claim that the SAT accurately assesses readiness for higher education, the logical conclusion is that test-driven K-12 school policies have been a colossal failure," Schaeffer said.

"Proponents of (No Child Left Behind) and similar state-level testing programs promised that overall achievement would improve, while score gaps between racial groups would narrow," Schaeffer said. "Precisely the opposite has taken place."

State Board of Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said the scores are another indication that state education reform can't come soon enough.

In Connecticut, the average reading score for white students was 530, compared to 418 for black students and 452 for Hispanic students. Math scores for white students averaged 535, compared to 412 for black students and 455 for Hispanic students. Students who took the PSAT, a practice test, scored 198 points higher, on average, than students who didn't.

For the most part, local high schools in the region posted lower reading and math scores in 2011 than in 2012, with a few exceptions. Oxford and Stratford high schools saw increases in their scores. Stratford jumped 16 points in reading to an average score of 458 and saw a five-point jump in math to 460. Oxford gained 17 points in reading to 517 and 12 points in math to 509. Derby High saw a 14-point jump in reading, but posted a lower score this year in math.

Staff writer Megan Davis contributed to this report.