S.C. SAT scores improve, still trail nation

jself@thestate.com, cclick@thestate.comSeptember 27, 2013 

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  • More information Local scores The Fort Mill school district was the only district in York, Chester and Lancaster counties in which students cracked 1500 on average on the three-part SAT, according to the College Board. At 1563, Fort Mill had the state’s second-highest average score and the second-highest percentage of seniors – 78 percent – taking the college admission exam. A perfect score is 2400. Here’s how local districts stacked up:
    District 2012 2013
    Rock Hill 1410 1382
    Fort Mill 1568 1563
    Clover 1472 1474
    York 1401 1404
    Chester 1329 1404
    Lancaster 1304 1324

South Carolina 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 South Carolina high school students are taking and performing better on advanced placement exams that allow them to earn college credit.

The average SAT score for South Carolina 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 South Carolina school districts beat the national average.

Lexington-Richland 5 district 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.

Locally, the Fort Mill district was the only one to break 1500 with its average score or to beat the national average. Next closest in the area was Clover, at 24 points behind the U.S. average.

Reversing a trend of decline

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

South Carolina 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 tests

Meanwhile, the number of South Carolina 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 South Carolina 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 South Carolina 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 that 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.

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