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NEWS RELEASES 2005-06 :: AUGUST 30, 2005


Note from the College Board:

"Media and others often rank states, districts, and schools on the basis of SAT scores despite repeated warnings that such rankings are invalid. The SAT is a strong indicator of trends in the college-bound population, but it should never be used alone for such comparisons because demographics and other non-school factors can have a strong effect on scores. If ranked, schools and states that encourage students to apply to college may be penalized because scores tend to decline with a rise in percentage of test-takers."

North Carolina's SAT Score and Participation Rate Increase; State's Increase Outpaces Nation

North Carolina's 2005 average total SAT score increased by four points to 1,010, with participation rising by four points to 74 percent of high school seniors, according to results released today by The College Board. The nation grew by two points to 1,028. Growth in North Carolina's average total score outpaced the nation's growth for the second consecutive year and for the 11th year out of the past 17.

North Carolina has gained 40 points on the SAT over the past 10 years. This puts the state ahead of all of the 23 SAT states except for Massachusetts, also with a 40 point gain and South Carolina with a 42 point gain. South Carolina, however, tests a lower percentage of students than North Carolina. SAT states are those that have 50 percent or more of their students taking the college admissions test.

The average yearly SAT gain for North Carolina has been approximately 3.6 points since 1989, compared with approximately 1.3 points for the nation.

Results were released today by Gov. Mike Easley, State Superintendent June Atkinson and State Board of Education Chairman Howard Lee at a news conference in Raleigh. The SAT is one of the major college entrance requirements for high school students and is the entrance exam most often taken in North Carolina. It provides a verbal and math score.

"North Carolina students are taking more rigorous courses. They are setting higher goals for themselves, and it is paying off," said State Superintendent June Atkinson. "Not only are SAT scores up, but results of the Advanced Placement program show us that more students are serious about preparing for college. This is positive news for North Carolina."

State Board of Education Chairman Howard Lee said that the Board's increased focus on rigor and standards has helped to ensure that students have a better foundation. "North Carolina has taken some important steps in recent years. We require every student to take Algebra I – a key gatekeeper course for success. We have worked with local high schools to broaden access to AP courses. We have used our accountability system to help ensure the quality of courses that students take. This is helping students be better prepared for the future."

North Carolina leads in gains

This year's SAT increase was in the mathematics test, where the average score was up by four points to 511. The verbal score remained the same at 499. The state's total average score in 2005 was 1,010. The nation's scores were 520 for the mathematics test (a two-point increase) and 508 for the verbal test (no change) for a total of 1,028.

North Carolina is a national leader in SAT score gains. It has improved its score each year since 1990, except in 1994 when scores did not change.

North Carolina's average total SAT score exceeds the Southeast score of 1,004, which increased by three points from 2004. The Southeast score includes scores from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. North Carolina students continued to close the gap between the state and nation, bringing it to 18. In 1972, the state trailed the nation by 83 points.

It is important that North Carolina has improved performance while encouraging a higher participation rate. The state now ranks ninth (tied with Delaware) among the 50 states in terms of participation rate. In North Carolina, 53,314 students took the SAT. Usually, students take the SAT during their junior and senior years of high school. The scores reported this week represent the scores of students who were seniors in 2004-05. Generally, among states, the higher the percentage of students taking the SAT, the lower the score.

Public schools' performance is positive

The scores commonly reported for states and the nation represent both public and private schools' scores. In North Carolina, when only public school students' scores are considered, the gain in the average score was five points. Public school students' average score totaled 1,008 (497 verbal and 511 math). Public school students gained one point, on average, on the verbal test and four points on the math. Of the North Carolina public school students who were seniors in 2005, 68 percent took the SAT.

AP results also released

At the same time that SAT results were released, The College Board also released information on students' performance on Advanced Placement (AP) Examinations. North Carolina increased the number of students taking AP exams by 12.7 percent to 38,194 and the number of exams taken by 13.8 percent to 70,026. These students posted a 11.5 percent increase in the number of 3, 4 or 5-level scores. Advanced Placement courses are college-level courses offered in high school. Students who take the AP Exams and earn a score of 3 or above on the exams' five-level scoring scale can qualify for college credit at participating colleges and universities.

When public schools only are considered, the improvements are greater. Thirteen percent more public school students took AP exams in 2005, and the number of exams taken by public school students increased by 14.3 percent. The number of grades in the 3-5 range improved by 12.3 percent for public school students. A total of 34,204 public school students took 62,358 AP exams in 2005.

Performance differences

Average SAT scores vary by race/ethnicity both in North Carolina and nationally. In 2005, all racial/ethnic groups improved their scores from the previous year except for Hispanic and "other" students. White students attained the highest score, 1,061, followed by Asian Americans (1,051). "Other" students scored 1,002, followed by Hispanic students (960), American Indian (928) and Black students (851).

American Indian students have made the second largest gain among North Carolina's racial/ethnic groups since 1995, increasing their score by 41 points. White students have gained the most since 1995 – 49 points. By comparison, the gains for other racial/ethnic groups over the same time period have been 35 points for Asians and 21 points for Blacks. Hispanic students have gained four points since 1997, the first year when North Carolina's SAT results included Hispanic student results.

Historically, males have scored higher on the SAT than females in North Carolina and in the United States although females earn higher grades in high school and college. In 2005, males in North Carolina scored six points higher than females on the verbal portion. The size of this gap has fluctuated over time, but remains persistent. On the math portion, males scored 29 points higher than females in North Carolina. This gap has been fairly consistent over time.

College Board cautions against misuse of scores

The College Board cautions against using the SAT as a gauge of overall state education performance. The College Board states that the SAT scores are useful for college admissions directors in making decisions about individual students and their academic preparation for college. The test's scores are not intended to be used to rank or rate teachers, educational institutions, districts or states.

The SAT report provides results for students scheduled to graduate in 2005 and represents students' most recent scores, regardless of when they last took the SAT. The SAT measures students' reasoning, verbal and mathematics skills against the skills needed to be successful in freshman level college coursework. The primary use for SAT scores is as a tool for admissions officials at colleges and universities.

The College Board reports that the proportion of students taking the test is the most important factor to consider in interpreting SAT scores for a state, school or district. For most schools, annual score changes are not as significant as trends over time. For additional information, please contact the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, Division of Communications and Information, 919.807.3450.

2005 SAT Report

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.

For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.