SAT scores rank near bottom

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 1, 2003

The good news is that North Carolina continues to make overall gains in SAT scores. The bad news is that three of the Roanoke-Chowan area’s four public school systems remained mired near the bottom those statewide gains.

Last week, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction released its SAT scores for 2003. Overall, those numbers revealed that despite increased participation by high school juniors and seniors taking this traditional test, the state showed an improvement of three points over the previous year. Generally, the higher the percentage of students taking the test, the lower the score.

A total of 48,893 students took part in the SAT during 2002-03, a six percent increase over 2001-02. Their average score was 1,001; marking the first time North Carolina has topped the 1,000-point threshold. On average, North Carolina students scored 506 points in the math portion of the test and 495 in the verbal section.

However, with the exception of Gates County (an average score of 890), the news wasn’t good among R-C area students taking the test.

Of the 354 reporting school systems, the average scores from Bertie and Northampton county public school students ranked near the bottom. Both counties were tied for 351st place with an average score of 790. Only Halifax County (782), Weldon City (776) and Laurinburg Charter School (748) ranked below Bertie and Northampton.

Northampton’s SAT scores have steadily declined over the past three SAT reporting periods – ranging from a high of an 816-point average in 2000-01 to 799 in 2001-02 to 790 this year.

In regards to Northampton’s two public high schools, their average scores are heading in opposite directions. Three years ago, the average SAT score at Northampton-East stood at 865 (444 math, 421 verbal) compared to 760 at Northampton-West (391 math, 369 verbal). Now, NCHS-West ranks higher with an overall average score of 796 (412 math, 384 verbal) while NCHS-East has slipped to 785 (408 math, 377 verbal).

Dr. James Pickens, Superintendent of Northampton County Public Schools, was out of the office late last week and unavailable for comment.

Meanwhile, Bertie school officials said that although the scores were up in their county, they had hoped for better results. Bertie High School students averaged 790 (397 math, 393 verbal) in 2002-03, a slight increase of two points (788) from one year earlier. However, the current score does reflect a noteworthy increase of 14 points from the 776 average posted during the 2000-01 school year.

&uot;Our goal was to have a 15-point increase this year,&uot; said Elaine White, principal of Bertie High School. &uot;We are happy over the fact that there was an increase in our score, but it’s nowhere near what we want it to be.&uot;

Even though White expressed disappointment over missing the 15-point goal, she stressed that Bertie students seem to fair well at the college/university level compared to students from other areas.

&uot;We are making an effort to steer our students towards more rigorous courses, thus helping them prepare for what they will see once they enroll in college,&uot; she noted.

White added that to help increase the scores at Bertie High School, students would be offered, for the first time, an SAT prep course.

The news was also disappointing in Hertford County where an average SAT score of 799 (407 math, 392 verbal) was reported for 2002-03, ranking the system #350 out of 354 schools. The current average represents a drop of nine points from 2001-02 (808). One year prior (2000-01), the average SAT score for a Hertford County High School student stood at 804.

&uot;We are disappointed with the SAT results this year,&uot; stated HCPS Superintendent Dennis Deloatch. &uot;Any drop in SAT scores is significant and should be addressed.&uot;

He continued, &uot;Although we tested more students this year, the data indicated a drop of seven points in verbal and two points in math. It is clearly evident that we must develop and focus on verbal skills.&uot;

Deloatch stressed that plans are already underway to tackle the problem areas.

&uot;We have already addressed a district-wide plan to start improving verbal skills of students from grades K-12,&uot; he said. &uot;This plan will be embraced throughout our Reading Initiative. Additional training for teachers will be part of the plan so that SAT strategies can be implemented throughout the entire school and not just in some classes.&uot;

Deloatch also said that the school system will continue to bring in professional consultants to provide SAT test-taking skills to the students.

&uot;Although we are developing a plan to improve SAT results, there is a great correlation between students who take Advance Placement/Honors courses and higher SAT results,&uot; Deloatch noted. &uot;Usually, these courses tend to be more rigorous and, as a result, some students shy away from them.&uot;

With that said, Deloatch issued a challenge to the students within the Hertford County school system.

&uot;There is a need for students to be willing to pursue greater academic rigor in high school,&uot; he concluded. &uot;One of our responsibilities will be to offer more AP (Advance Placement) classes and to encourage students and parents to select these courses.&uot;

Gates County public school students continue to set the standard for higher SAT scores in the Roanoke-Chowan area. During 2002-03, Gates students averaged 890 on the SAT (454 math, 436 verbal). That marks a continued upswing in scores – 882 last year and 866 two years prior.

However, when measured against other local systems, all R-C area schools continue to lag behind.

With the exception of Halifax County (a combined score between Northwest Halifax and Southeast Halifax high schools) and Weldon City Schools, all nearby school systems rank higher. Their average scores from 2002-03 are as follows:

Roanoke Rapids City (1025), Dare County (1006), Currituck County (988), Camden County (980), Chowan County (976), Pasquotank County (929), Martin County (928), Perquimans County (924) and Edgecombe County (896).