SAT scores climb in county schools|On the whole, they still remain below state, U.S. averages

Published 2:22 pm Friday, August 28, 2009

Staff Writer

Two reports released this week on the performance of public high-school students in Beaufort County contained a mixed bag of results for local schools.
Beaufort County student performance on the SAT in 2009 rose slightly, bucking national and state trends. But local scores continue to fall below national and state averages, according to a recent report from the College Board.
“Overall, Beaufort County SAT scores have maintained a gradual increase over the past three years. Of course, we are pleased with those numbers. Now, the challenge will be to analyze the scores to see how to maintain improvement and identify specific areas needing attention,” said Sarah Hodges, public information officer for Beaufort County Schools. “Our definition of success in this arena will include increasing the number of students taking the SATs and the overall scores for each school.”
Also, the four-year graduation rate from three of four public schools in the county fell below the state average, according to a report recently released by Beaufort County Schools.
Beaufort County’s average SAT score was 983 in 2009, three points higher than the average in 2008 and 11 points higher than the average in 2007.
At 1016 — 490 in critical reading and 526 in math — the average combined SAT score at Northside High School was the only score above the state average, according to the College Board report.
The average combined SAT score at Southside High School was 992 — 473 in critical reading and 519 in math; the average combined SAT score at Washington High School was 970 — 481 in critical reading and 489 in math, according to the College Board report.
North Carolina’s average score is 1006 — 495 in critical reading and 511 in mathematics. The national average score is 1016 — 501 in critical reading and 515 in mathematics.
These test scores are based on the most recent SAT taken by public- and private-school graduating seniors in 2009.
Although the SAT report focuses on all students in public and private schools, the performance of public schools remained the same in 2009 and, in fact, the math score for public school students in North Carolina was one point higher than the nation’s, according to the College Board report.
Participation by Beaufort County students fell slightly from previous years, according to the report. Forty-one percent of students took the SAT in 2009 as compared with 47.1 percent in 2008 and 52.9 percent in 2007.
Participation by North Carolina students remained high at 63 percent, where the SAT is not a required test but is taken by college-bound students. Nationally, the SAT participation rate is 46 percent.
The number of Beaufort County test-takers was 166 in 2009, down from 179 in 2008 and 203 in 2007. The number of test-takers in North Carolina was 57,147 in 2009, a 1.2 percent increase over 2008. By comparison, the number of SAT takers in the nation increased by 0.7 percent.
In addition to reading and math, the SAT includes a writing component, although that component is not commonly reported as part of the combined SAT scores. The writing component has been included in the test since 2006.
Beaufort County’s average writing component score was 460, 20 points below the North Carolina average and 33 points below the national average score. Since writing component’s inception, the writing-test results have remained fairly constant at the county, state and national levels.
The SAT is one of the college-admissions tests widely accepted and required by colleges and universities and the one most commonly taken in North Carolina. Of entering freshmen at East Carolina University in 2008, 75 percent scored at least 920 on the SAT; at N.C. State University, 75 percent scored at least 1080; at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 75 percent scored at least 1210 on the SAT; at Duke University, 75 percent scored at least 1340, according to the North Carolina SAT report.
Four-year graduation rates from Beaufort County schools varied widely by school, according to a report given at a meeting of the Beaufort County Board of Education earlier this week.
Northside High School also scored best on four-year graduation rates, according to the report. Of 158 ninth-grade students entering Northside High School, 115, or 72.78 percent graduated in four years. However, its four-year graduation rate fell from 76.85 percent in 2008.
Northside High School was the only public school in Beaufort County to top the statewide average four-year graduation rate of 71.4 percent, according to the report.
Southside High School had the largest drop in graduation rates of public schools in Beaufort County from 2008. In 2009, 86 of 159, or 54.09 percent, of students entering the ninth grade graduated in four years. In 2008, 68.15 percent graduated in four years, the report said.
Washington High School scored the largest gain in graduation rates from 2008. In 2009, 196 of 297, or 65.99 percent, of students entering the ninth grade graduated in four years. In 2008, 58.65 percent graduated in four years, the report said.
At the Beaufort County Ed Tech School, seven of 19 students graduated in 2009 for a graduation rate of 36.84 percent. This was the first year of information on graduation rates at the school, according to the report.
The four-year graduation rates were included in the 2008-2009 Performance Report presented by Patrick Abele, executive director for learning services, to the school board on Monday.