SAT scores up slightly as local schools buck trends

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 15, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — The Rowan-Salisbury School System bucked a state and national trend of declining SAT scores this year.
The district’s average score grew 26 points from 1,396 to 1,422.
Statewide, the average is 1,475, down 10 points from last year. The national average also fell from 1,509 to 1,500.
“It is always good to see when our district’s SAT scores have increased, as compared to the state and U.S. scores that experienced a decline in scores,” Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom said in a press release.
But Carson High School, West Rowan High and A.L. Brown High in Kannapolis followed the downward trend.
Average scores for both Carson and A.L. Brown dropped 22 points, while West saw a decline of 25.
Students at Gray Stone Day School, a charter school based on the campus of Pfeiffer University, continue to bring in scores that surpass both the state and national averages.
This year the school’s average score is 1,661, up three points.
The College Board, which administers the test, included student test results through June this year. In previous years, only scores through March were included.
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the agency that released the SAT results Wednesday, notes scores from previous years are not comparable to this year because of the change.
Participation rate
The percentage of seniors taking the test this year in Rowan-Salisbury rose to almost 52 percent.
Salisbury High had the highest participation rate at about 64 percent, followed by West at 57, Carson at 52, North at 50, East at 47 and South at 46. About 51 percent of seniors at A.L. Brown, the Kannapolis City school district’s only high school, took the exam this year.
For the past two years, every senior at Gray Stone has taken the SAT.
Behind state, nation
Despite the Rowan-Salisbury district’s rise in SAT performance, the school system continues to lag behind the state and national average.
“There are many factors that influence who takes the SAT, when it is taken, and how the individual student prepares for the test,” Grissom said. “The district will continue to review these scores and work with individual high schools to look at ways to address the needs of students as they prepare to take the SAT in the future.”
Grissom said part of that preparation is making sure students know what to expect by encouraging teachers to incorporate SAT-type questions into their ongoing classroom assessments.
A.L. Brown’s SAT scores also fell below the state average. Principal Kevin Garay said seeing the results drop this year has been a tough blow.
“We want to do a lot better job with guiding some students who may be better served taking the ACT or possibly putting off the SAT until they are more prepared,” he said.
The ACT is a curriculum-based measure of college readiness that tests academic achievement in English, math, reading, science and writing. It s accepted at all of the nation’s colleges and universities.
Garay said the school will now be able to measure student preparedness for the SAT through software that stores longitudinal data from state tests such as end-of- course exams.
“Based on their previous testing data we’ll be able to determine how likely that student is to make the average state test score,” he said.
A closer look at scores
A.L. Brown and West saw a dip in math, critical reading and writing scores, but Carson managed to gain 2 points in writing.
All three schools saw double-digit drops in math scores as did Gray Stone.
Garay said some students could be taking the SAT as juniors before they have had upper level math courses that could bump up their scores.
Although A.L. Brown saw a decrease in all three subjects, Garay said a pilot SAT prep class yielded improvements.
Twenty-five students took the class, which was offered to sophomores, juniors and seniors last fall.
“The students who took the course made significant gains,” he said.
The school has not been able to offer the class in the spring or this fall because of scheduling issues. “We wish we could have done more of that,” Garay said.
East, North, Salisbury and South saw improvements in all three subjects. Salisbury saw a 43 point jump in writing, 30 in reading and 28 in math for a total of 101. South had the next highest increase with 51 points.
“We’re excited that our kids are starting to step up and take their education seriously,” South Principal Dr. Don Knox said. “They know this is an important step to get into the college’s they want to go to.”
Knox also attributes the increase to his staff.
“A lot of our teachers have been putting in extra time after school and even given weekend time to meet with students to help them prepare,” he said. “We have a lot of very dedicated teachers, it’s really wonderful to see that.”
The school’s 23 point increase in writing and 12 in reading are also likely part the school’s focus on vocabulary.
“They are starting to write at a deeper level,” Knox said.
Knox said staff members have also been trying to encourage the students by letting them know that the SAT is a challenge they can conquer. “We’ve really been getting our kids pumped up,” he said. “There’s been a big push to get kids to challenge themselves to step up.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.