S.C. SAT scores improve, still trail nation

jself@thestate.com, cclick@thestate.comOctober 1, 2013 

  • How S.C. SAT scores stack up among nearby states: The percentage of graduating high-school seniors who take the SAT varies from state to state, making SAT averages an unreliable way to compare states, critics say. A snapshot of how South Carolina and its neighbors performed:
    Average SAT scoresNumber taking test Participation rate
    U.S. 1498 1.66 mil. 50%
    S.C. 1436 26,320 59%
    Ga. 1452 72,119 71%
    N.C. 1479 58,100 57%
  • More information In the Midlands Students in Lexington-Richland 5 and Lexington 1 were the only Midlands school districts to crack 1500 on average on the three-part SAT, according to the College Board. At 1517, Lexington-Richland 5 had the state’s third highest average score and the highest percentage of seniors – 82 percent – taking the college admission exam. A perfect score is 2400. Here’s how Midlands districts stacked up:
    District 2012 2013
    Lexington 1 1490 1503
    Lexington 2 1439 1428
    Lexington 3 1409 1373
    Lexington 4 1299 1374
    Lexington-Richland 5 1506 1517
    Kershaw 1404 1384
    Richland 1 1347 1371
    Richland 2 1410 1403

Students scored higher on average on the SAT college admissions test this year than last. But the state still trails the nation’s stagnant average.

Meanwhile, more S.C. high-school students are taking and performing better on advanced placement exams that allow them to earn college credit.

The average SAT score for S.C. graduating seniors was 1436, up five points from 2012, according to the S.C. Department of Education. The national average stayed the same – at 1498. A perfect score on the SAT is 2400.

In South Carolina, the average score was 484 for reading, 487 for math and 465 for writing, lagging behind the national averages of 496 for reading, 514 for math and 488 for writing.

Five of 82 S.C. school districts, including two in the Midlands, beat the national average.

Among Midlands districts, Lexington-Richland 5 students beat the national average, scoring 1517 on average, up 11 points from 2012. District 5 was the best performing district in the Midlands, ranking third in the state. At 82 percent, it also ranked highest in the percentage of students taking the college admission exam – 941 of 1,153 seniors.

“This expectation ... that all kids can excel and that all kids deserve an opportunity is one we focus a lot of attention on,” said district spokesman Mark Bounds. “We are so proud that so many of our children are taking a test that indicates they want to be college bound.”

Bounds said the district, which received an “A” on its federal report card this year, relies on data-driven remedies to help faltering students and has a “relentless focus on knowledge acquisition.”

Lexington 1 students were just behind Lexington-Richland 5, scoring 1503 on average, up 13 points from 2012. Lexington 3 was third, at 1428. Richland 2 had 1,178 students take the SAT – more than any other Midlands district – was in fourth place with an average score of 1403.

The statewide increase reversed a four-year trend of declining SAT scores.

S.C. schools superintendent Mick Zais had the same response to this year’s results as he did last year, according to the state Department of Education:

“Like the other college admission test, ACT, the SAT is not a measure of school effectiveness. However, within the student population taking the SAT is another data point confirming a troubling trend: there is a wide reading gap between South Carolina and the nation,” Zais said in a news release.

“Addressing the reading gap in elementary school must be our top priority because reading is fundamental to everything else in a student’s education,” Zais said. “If students cannot read, they will not succeed in school. To accomplish this goal, we must transform education from a one-size-fits-all system to one that delivers a personalized and customized education to each student.”

More students take AP exams

Meanwhile, the number of S.C. students taking advanced placement tests and performing well on them is growing at a faster rate than in the nation.

AP courses, and their year-end exams, expose students to the rigor of college-level classes and give them the chance to earn college credit if they score a 3, 4 or 5 on a scale of 1 to 5.

Nearly 2,000 more students in S.C. public high schools took AP tests in the spring, a 9.3 percent increase from the previous school year. The number of tests taken in spring 2013 where S.C. students scored a 3, 4 or 5 also increased by 9.6 percent.

Nationwide, participation in AP exams was up by 5.6 percent and, of tests taken, 6 percent more scored a 3, 4 or 5.

“(T)he success of these individual students is a noteworthy accomplishment,” Zais said, adding taking AP exams helps defray future college costs.

The state has paid for AP instructional materials, student test fees and teacher training since 1984. All students who enroll in an AP course must take the test.

Reach Self at (803)771-8658

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