Students who enter education programs in Virginia colleges tend to have lower college entrance test scores than students who go into other college programs, a recent survey of state and private universities showed.

Conducted by the state Council of Higher Education, the survey indicated that education majors at state universities scored an average of 121 points lower on the Scholastic Aptitude Test than did their counterparts who received bachelor's degrees in other fields. Education graduates at private colleges in Virginia scored an average of 80 points below other graduates at their schools.

The SAT is administered to high school students and is an admission requirement at many colleges. The test has a maximum score of 1,600 points.

Education majors at George Mason University scored 91 points below the 966-point SAT average of other students at the school, according to the survey.

The survey also showed that education students graduated from college with slightly higher grade point averages than other college graduates.

The council surveyed the colleges to test "often loudly proclaimed assumptions" that students who enroll in education programs show lower scores on standardized tests but have an easier chance of earning higher grades than college students in other areas.

The assumptions were supported by the survey, although the council hedged on the validity of its poll, noting its survey was based on only a 10 percent random sample of the state's non-teacher graduates. Most education graduates were covered in the survey.

State education officials carried out the study in conjunction with a report on teacher shortages in school districts throughout Virginia.

In another segment of the report, school superintendents complained that the quality of applicants for teaching jobs has been eroding slowly in fields where school systems already are facing critical shortages in filling teaching jobs.

"The quality is going down, and people generally are not as enthusiastic, scholarly or outward," said one school superintendent. "We are choosing between warm bodies of recent graduates."

After two years of study and controversy, the Virginia Board of Education last month approved sweeping changes in teacher education programs. Under the new policies, admissions requirements for college education programs can be no less stringent than those of any other program at the university, including such traditionally tough areas as chemistry and other sciences.

"The vast majority of colleges in Virginia will have to make significant changes to meet these requirements," said one official who helped shape the new regulations.

The new requirements will be phased in at the state's colleges over the next four years, according to department officials.