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September 1, 1998

North Carolina Close to Southeast Average on SAT

Full Report | 1998 Average Scores | 1997 Results
| 1996 Results | 1995 Results

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Ward today announced that North Carolina's average SAT score has gained four points to reach 982, bringing the state within four points of the southeast average and closer than it has ever been to the national average.

This year, the number of North Carolina seniors taking the SAT continued to increase. A total of 40,007 North Carolina seniors took the college-admission test in 1997-98, up from 38,468 in 1996-97.

North Carolina students, overall, improved their scores by four points on the math portion of the test reaching an average score of 492. Verbal scores stayed the same, at 490, on average.

The state's average score, 982, reported by The College Board includes both public and private school student scores. The average score for public school students is 981.

These scores bring North Carolina close to the southeast average of 986 for both public and private schools. The difference between the national average score and North Carolina's average score has narrowed to 35 points for both public and private school students. Looking only at public school students in North Carolina and the nation, however, that gap is smaller, a difference of 30 points.

Nationally, math scores for all seniors went up by one point to an average score of 512. The nation's verbal scores stayed the same at 505. The highest score possible is 800 for verbal and 800 for math for a total of 1600.

The SAT measures a student's reasoning, verbal and math 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 discourages the comparison of states on the basis of SAT scores alone and considers it invalid. (Please see the attached Policy Update from the National Association of State Boards of Education.)

The most valid national measure of public school progress is the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The latest NAEP results showed North Carolina's fourth graders above the national average in mathematics and the state's eighth graders above the southeast average and near the national average, also in mathematics.

Another piece of good news for North Carolina schools is that African American students showed a five-point gain overall, one point in verbal and four in math. There also was an increase in the number of African American students taking the SAT in North Carolina. African American students averaged a combined score of 839.

State Superintendent Mike Ward said, "The SAT is very important to individual students as they apply for admission to colleges and universities. It is significant that our scores have increased because that can mean better opportunities for high school graduates."

State Board Chairman Phillip J. Kirk Jr. said that he hoped that the increases in the percentage of students taking the SAT indicates that more students are planning and preparing for education beyond high school. "The SAT news is good news, if this means that more students are taking challenging courses and setting higher goals for themselves. Our goal is not just higher SAT scores, but more student learning and better student preparation."

SAT results are analyzed by The College Board to consider factors that may have an impact on a student's score. Generally, the report shows that students who take higher level courses, take more than the minimum required courses and who took the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test post higher scores than their peers.

Other factors show that family income seems to be related to SAT scores. The higher the family income, the higher the score. This relationship has remained stable over the years that scores have been reported. Similarly, the more education that students' parents have, the higher the scores.

Also students who reported using calculators almost every day had higher scores than those who use calculators once or twice weekly or less. North Carolina students in urban and suburban areas tended to score slightly higher than students in rural areas or small towns.

Other key points of the 1998 SAT report:

  • Young women make up the majority of SAT test-takers in North Carolina, comprising 55 percent of the test-takers. Their scores, however, lag behind male students' scores, on average, by 35 points. Most of this difference is in the math score.
  • African American students in North Carolina picked up five points in 1998, bringing their average score to 839. This compares to African American students nationally who scored an average of 860, up three points. African American students represent 20 percent of the state's SAT takers and only 11 percent of the national SAT takers.
  • Hispanic students' average SAT score in North Carolina was 984, compared to 916 for Hispanic students nationally. This minority group is the only one in North Carolina that outscores their national counterparts.
Full Report | 1998 Average Scores | 1997 Results
| 1996 Results | 1995 Results

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