SAT scores on the rise

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 1, 2008

Public schools in the Roanoke-Chowan area have followed a statewide trend with increased SAT scores.

Last week, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction released its annual report of SAT scores. That score increased statewide, now standing at an average of 1,007. Nationally, the average is 1,017.

“We are extremely pleased with the news,” State Superintendent June Atkinson said. “Students have been working diligently and challenging themselves with higher level courses. This strategy takes time, but it is effective. In 1998, it seemed we would never reach the national average. Today, that goal is within sight.”

Locally, four of the five public high schools in the Roanoke-Chowan area noted increases. As with the state average, the local results are determined by combining the math and critical reading scores.

At Hertford County High School, students averaged 834 on the SAT, marking a 12-point increase over last year’s 822 average.

“This is a positive sign, but we would like to take these scores up a whole lot more,” Hertford County Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Basham said.

Dr. Basham credited the increase to an effort by students and staff and said both will have a hand in the future success of Hertford County Schools.

“We feel we have things in place to take our system of education up to the next level,” Dr. Basham noted. “We have worked to build a solid curriculum. We have worked equally as hard to attract and retain quality teachers. Another positive is we now have proper assessment techniques that help give us direction on what we need to spend more time on in the classroom.

“We’re happy with the news that our SAT scores are on the rise, but we know we need to continue this effort. We will not be content until our scores reach the state average,” Dr. Basham concluded.

While the SAT scores at both Northampton County high schools (Northampton-East and Northampton-West) are the lowest of the R-C area’s four public school districts, they marked an increase over 2007.

The average SAT score at NCHS-East was 826 for the 2008 reporting period, up from 807 last year. NCHS-West students recorded an average SAT of 798, marking a slight six-point gain from 2007. For NCHS-East, it marked the third straight year of improvement as the school’s average SAT score was 806 in 2006.

“The increase in our SAT scores is a testament to our students, staff, administrators and community supporters,” Dr. Eric Bracy, newly appointed Northampton Schools Superintendent, said. “We see this as an opportunity to move this school system forward and upward. We will accelerate our effort at the SAT level through technical support combined with an increase in specialized instructional options, including language arts and math.”

Gates County High School continues to lead the R-C area in SAT scores. The 2008 report revealed GCHS students averaged 960, an increase from 939 in 2007.

“We saw increases in both reading and math scores,” Gates County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Zenobia Smallwood noted. “We’re proud of the gains we made, but we remain just below the state average. Our goal is to reach and surpass the state average.”

Dr. Smallwood continued, “Our teachers and students worked hard to make this gain happen. We will continue to provide the best teaching and learning practices for our students and to see even more gains for the coming year.”

Bertie High School students slipped by a mere five points in their average SAT score. In 2008, that average stood at 832, down from 837 the previous year. However, the current year results did not revert back to the 2006 score that was recorded at 812.

“We’re not at all pleased that our scores fell, but at the same time it doesn’t leave us discouraged to the point where we know we can’t perform at higher levels,” Dr. Chip Zullinger, Bertie Schools Superintendent, said.

To reach higher levels, Dr. Zullinger noted it all starts on the ground floor.

“We upgrading what is offered at the ninth grade level,” he said. “We’ve redesigned our curriculum to offer more rigorous instruction in math and reading. Plus we have reduced class size to the point where none exceed 18 students per teacher.”

Dr. Zullinger added that 9th graders will also receive help with the PSAT.

“We have high expectations for our students; we will see our scores increase,” he concluded.

North Carolina’s math score on the SAT gained two points in 2008 from 509 in 2007 to 511 in 2008. Nationally, the math score in 2008 was 515, the same as the 2007 score.

North Carolina’s critical reading score on the SAT was 496 in 2008, up one point from 495. The nation stayed the same in reading, with an average score of 502.

Among the Southeastern states, North Carolina continues to have an average score that is higher than the Southeast mean of 999. The Southeast region includes scores from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

Among the &uot;SAT states,&uot; those with more than 50 percent of students taking the SAT, North Carolina is tied with Vermont as the state with the second largest 10-year improvement in average scores. South Carolina has the largest improvement during that time, although its average score, 985, is lower than North Carolina’s.

The number of test takers in the state increased to 56,442, a 2.4 percent increase over 2007. The percentage of students taking the SAT in North Carolina was 63 percent in 2008, according to recently revised projections of state participation rates. This rate places the state 15th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

North Carolina’s improvements on the SAT were reported along with performance on Advanced Placement (AP) tests, another measure of college-readiness. On the AP tests, North Carolina students increased their participation, the number of tests they took and the number of tests they passed. The number of participants was up by 5.9 percent with a total of 45,704 students taking more than 85,000 exams. The percentage of AP exams that received passing scores (generally considered scores of 3, 4 or 5) also increased by 5.1 percent to 49,508.

The SAT is one of the college admissions tests widely accepted and required by colleges and universities and the one most commonly taken in North Carolina. The other test, taken by 14 percent of North Carolina students (13,054), is the ACT. North Carolina students also increased their performance on the ACT college admissions exam in 2008, scoring two-tenths of a point higher than the national average, according to results released by the ACT earlier this month.