SAT scores up but still below state average

BY JOHN HUNTER
Posted 11/22/18

Chatham County’s average district-wide student scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test rose slightly in 2018, but still fell below North Carolina’s average for the test.

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SAT scores up but still below state average

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Chatham County’s average district-wide student scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test rose slightly in 2018, but still fell below North Carolina’s average for the test.

Chatham County Schools’ average score increased to 1068 from 2017’s 1063, according information released earlier this month by the state Department of Public Instruction. The average for all public school students across North Carolina taking the test was 1090 in 2018, up from 1074 in 2017.

The SAT is a standardized test widely used by colleges and universities in admissions. Starting in 2017, scores on the SAT range from 400 to 1600, combining results from two 800-point sections addressing mathematics, and critical reading and writing ability.
The average score for public school students in North Carolina rose 16 points this year, puttig 41 points above the national average for public schools.

“Of course, we are always happy to see improvement in our students’ work,” Chatham County Board of Education Chairman Gary Leonard said.

Changes in the SAT and an increased number of local students taking the test were factors in Chatham’s scores, he noted.

“The SAT changed fairly substantially in 2016,” said Chatham County Schools Superintendent Dr. Derrick D. Jordan. “Many districts across the nation, including Chatham County Schools, are continuing to acclimate teachers and students to those changes.”

Jordan noted there were increases in the overall average, reading, math and writing scores, and that “our students exceeded the national average,” despite falling below the state average.

For the class of 2018 from Chatham’s high schools, the percentage of students tested exceeded the state’s participation rate by almost 12 percentage points, underscoring what Jordan described as “our commitment to cultivating a college-going culture.”
“But we’re also equally committed to our students who will seek to enter the workforce immediately after graduation,” he said.

“Very few school systems exceeded the SAT performance of our Class of 2018 and also exceeded the SAT participation of our Class of 2018,” Leonard said.

Dr. Kelly Batten, the district’s executive director of secondary education and career and technical education, said he also was impressed with the high number of CCS students who took the SAT, despite the test not being a requirement for admission into every college.

Even so, the district’s administrators would like to see more students taking the SAT.

Last week, Chatham Middle School students took the preliminary SAT test. Preliminary SAT scores do not affect the average scores for Chatham County Schools, and serves as a practice test for the SAT.

“That way, there’s early exposure to the type of test questions associated with the SAT,” Batten said.

Last August, high school teachers in the district participated in SAT workshops that later led to strategy sessions to help students with the test.

“Every cohort of students is different,” Jordan said. “However, our goal, as always, is to continue moving in a forward direction.”

Jordan said the system’s Academic Services and Instructional Support Division is continuing to implement strategies aimed at targeting specific gaps and providing tools for success.

“Examples include providing preparation sessions for the ACT and SAT, partnering with The Princeton Review and incorporating school-wide AVID strategies in our high schools,” he said.

AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) is an approach to education that helps students take better notes and become more organized.

The Princeton review offers self-study modules that help prepare for the SAT or ACT. Full-length practice tests, a diagnostic score report, supporting video lessons and practice drills are available to students.

“Staff at each high school is trained to provide the tutoring support for the SAT,” Leonard said.

The school district also purchased a program from Sylvan Learning called Homework Help, which has ACT and SAT prep support and is accessible to all students, he said

“Our administrative staff is also exploring what other school systems did differently from the Class of 2017 to the Class of 2018 that may have helped their students improve,” Leonard said.

The exact weight of the SAT and ACT scores on college admission has changed in recent years. A new survey from the National Association for College Admission Counseling to high school counselors and college admission officers shows that less emphasis is being placed on the SAT scores by colleges and universities than in the past.

In the survey, admission officers were asked to rate the importance of parts of students’ records. Courses taken, class rank, and test scores were all rated. The percentage of institutions that assign “little or no importance” to the SAT/ACT scores rose from 11.6 percent to 16.8 percent over the past two years.

Bowdoin College in Maine was the first college or university to eliminate SAT and ACT requirements in 1969.

According to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, around 1,000 accredited four-year colleges and universities have issued test-flexible admission policies. Earlier this year, the University of Chicago opted to go to a test-optional policy. The National Center for Fair and Open Testing is predicting that other colleges and universities would be encouraged to follow the University of Chicago’s lead because it is such an influential university.

In North Carolina, several universities and colleges, such as Bennett College, Brevard College, Carolina Guilford College High Point University, Laurel University, Lees-McRae College, Pfeiffer University, Wake Forrest University, and Warren Wilson College have issued test-flexible admission policies.

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