08/30/06 — SAT scores take a tumble

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SAT scores take a tumble

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 30, 2006 1:45 PM

The latest class of high school graduates recorded the sharpest drop in SAT scores in 31 years, but the College Board has issued a disclaimer attributing the decline to changes made in the test.

The data was compiled from the 2005-06 12th-grade students who took the SAT any time during their high school years through March 2006. This year's class was the first to take the new version of the exam, which included an essay.

Wayne County Public School's system-wide average is 1420. If calculated as in previous years, with just math and reading without the writing section, the local average was 961, a 7-point drop from last year.

In North Carolina, the average combined scores for the critical reading and math sections dropped two points, from 1010 to 1008.

School Reading Math Writing Total
CBA 504 514 484 1502
EWH 490 525 486 1501
GHS 419 421 407 1247
RWH 476 489 467 1432
SWH 451 467 441 1359
SCH 461 468 428 1357

The SAT scores should not be used to compare or rank one school against another, local officials said, since not every student takes the SAT.

"Wayne County Public Schools anticipated this drop," said Dr. Craig McFadden, assistant superintendent of accountability and student services, noting the changes had contributed to the drop in scores nationwide.

"It's a hard test and not a measure of a school system because there's no control over who takes the test. Anyone who wants to take the test can take it. What the SAT does accurately measure is the preparedness of students for college," he said.

Education experts said the change to the exam could have affected how students approached the test and resulted in the outcome.

"When a new test is introduced, students usually vary their test-taking behavior in a variety of ways and this affects scores," College Board President Gaston Caperton said in a news release.

The new version of the SAT has been administered since March 2005. Students in the Class of 2006 had the option of taking the old exam until midway through their junior year, and the new version after that.

According to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, "The new test aimed to better align its content with contemporary curriculum and practices in high schools and colleges. The verbal test was renamed 'critical reading.' Shorter reading passages were added to existing long reading passages and analogies were eliminated.

"The mathematics section was revised to increase alignment with curriculum and admissions expectations."

In critical reading, Wayne County SAT scores dropped two points. The national test scores dropped five points. In math, Wayne County's numbers were down by five points, while the national scores showed a two-point drop.

According to local school officials, the public schools' top individual score came from Charles B. Aycock High School, where the student earned a 2300, 100 points shy of a perfect score. The same student earned a perfect score of 800 in critical reading, a 790 in writing and a 710 in math.

The composite scores for the six area high schools were as follows: Aycock had 1502; Eastern Wayne High School 1501; Goldsboro High, 1247; Rosewood, 1432; Southern Wayne, 1359; and Spring Creek, 1357.

In breaking down results further, Ken Derksen, a spokesman for the school system who released the local results, said there were several highlights.

Scores showed the achievement gap, or the difference between scores for black and white students who took the SAT, is smaller in Wayne County than across the state and nation, he said.

Math and reading scores are up 81 points in Wayne County since 1991, with Eastern Wayne's math scores above the state and national average.

Aycock's critical reading scores are also above the state and national averages.

The county's overall SAT score is above many of the surrounding county's school systems, Derksen said, including Duplin, Edgecombe, Greene, Jones, Sampson and Wilson.