09/28/13 — Local SAT scores drop; school officials not concerned

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Local SAT scores drop; school officials not concerned

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 28, 2013 10:34 PM

Wayne County School officials are taking a close look at why the district's average SAT scores dropped four points this past year and what can be done to better prepare students for the college placement test.

The state Department of Public Instruction announced Thursday that more than 58,000 high school seniors taking the test had an average combined score of 1,479 -- a 10-point increase over the previous year.

But the state is still below the national average score of 1,498, which remained the same as it was in 2012.

The 2013 Scholastic Aptitude Test, or SAT, scores were released by the College Board. They are compiled from data pertaining to students who took the test at any time during their high school years through March 2013.

"Compared to the year before, Wayne County Public Schools saw a two-point gain in the critical reading section, a five-point drop in the mathematics section and a one-point drop in the writing section," Ken Derksen, public information officer for the district, said Friday afternoon. "The scores were compiled from 462 tests that were taken."

There are several mitigating factors that should be considered in analyzing the latest figures and making comparisons to previous data, Derksen said.

First of all, the number of students taking the test in 2013 dropped 8.2 percent from the previous year. In 2012, he said, for the first time, all high school juniors took the ACT, or Advanced Placement Test, as part of a new state program. The results can be used for college admission and there is no charge to take the test, creating a broader appeal.

"This was a contributing factor for why there were nearly 100 less SAT tests taken districtwide from the year before, a 9.4 percent decrease," Derksen said.

In 2011, 567 students in the district took the SAT test, dropping to 558 in 2012 and 462 this year.

According to the state, the average critical reading score was 495, an increase of four points from the year before, while the average mathematics score of 506 remained the same. The average writing score was 478, up six points.

The national average scores were 495 in critical reading, 514 for mathematics and 488 for writing.

WCPS scores in critical reading were 463, compared to 461 in 2012; 476 in math, down from 481 in 2012, and 438 in writing, a slight drop from 2012, when it was 439. Total SAT scores for the district in 2013 were 1,377, compared to the state average of 1,479. In 2012, the local total score had been 1,381 while the state was at 1,469.

Derksen said it is difficult to draw parallels from one year to the next or compare schools since the group of students changes from year to year.

"Not every high school student takes the SAT, and scores are only reflective of the college-bound seniors who took the test as part of their admission requirements," he said. "In the 2013 College Board report, the number of SAT tests taken also varies for each school with as few as 24 tests taken upwards to 95 tests taken.

"In addition, if a student took the test more than once, regardless of the score, the most recent score is used in the College Board report."

Derksen said the district is already incorporating several strategies outside of the standard school curriculum to help students in preparing for the college admissions test, including offering SAT courses and help sessions, instructional integration of higher order thinking, vocabulary and math skills, free SAT/ACT prep materials students can order, and online tips and resources available on the district website.