Fewer taking SAT, but scores seem higher overall

Sep. 26, 2013 @ 10:25 PM

The number of Durham public high school juniors taking the SAT declined during the past year.

But many in Durham who did, like those throughout the country, performed well.

During the DPS Board of Education’s regular meeting Thursday night, Superintendent Eric Becoats boasted about the district’s 27-point increase to 1,426 and a 13-point increase in the district’s writing score to 461.

“One of our high expectations is that students will take challenging coursework that will prepare them for college, career and life,” Becoats said in a news release. “Higher SAT scores and AP exam participation indicate that they are accepting the challenge.”

DPS also saw 29 more students – 1,384 in total - taking at least one AP exam.

Students saw a slight decrease in AP exam percentage scores from 61.7 to 61 percent, which is still higher than the state average of 59.2 and the national average of 56.9.

DPS also saw an increase in enrollment to 33,400 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Fewer DPS students took the SAT in 2013, 1,274 down from 1,531 in 2012 and 1,545 in 2011. The district’s average math score is 484, up from 477 last year; the average critical reading score is 481, up from last year’s 474; and the average writing score is up to 461 from 448 last year.

Clement Early College High School and City of Medicine Academy had an increase in math, but a decrease in critical reading and writing.

Jordan, Middle College, Northern, Southern saw increased writing scores but decreased scores in math and critical reading.

Hillside New Tech lost ground on math, but made gains in reading and writing.

Durham School of the Arts, Hillside and Riverside saw gains in all three areas.

Across the state, 58,100 students took the SAT this year, earning an average score of 1,479. That’s a 10-point increase from last year, but with 8.2 percent fewer students taking the college-entrance exam.

The state’s average critical reading score is 495, up four points from 2012; the average math score is 506, the same as last year; and the average writing score is 478, an increase of six points from last year.

According to the College Board, only 43 percent of the students who took the SAT are prepared for college-level work, a number that has remained static for the last five years. The national average on the SAT is 1,498, broken down to an average critical reading score of 496, an average math score of 514 and an average writing score of 488.

The College Board is the organization that administers the exam that is used by most colleges and universities to determine admission.

The benchmark score of 1,550 remained the same and indicates a 65 percent chance that a student will get a B- or higher GPA their first semester of college. The benchmark is also associated with a student’s likelihood of college success.

College Board president David Coleman said that “while some might see stagnant scores as no news, we at the College Board consider it a call to action. We must dramatically increase the number of students in K-12 who are prepared for college and careers.”

The N.C. School of Science and Mathematics had more students take the SAT this year, up to 358 from 310 last year, with gains in all three measured areas.

Students in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools district outpaced the nation and state by nearly 300 points with a district average of 1,770.  Chapel Hill High and East Chapel Hill High were first and second in the state among public schools, with combined scores of 1,797 and 1,783. Carrboro High averaged 1,683.

Orange County averaged 1,537 as a district, a slight decrease from last year’s 1,542. Following the larger trend, fewer students in Orange County took the SAT, down to 297 from 360.