SAT/ACT scores on the rise
by Kellen Short
Wayne Eberle, director of accountability and federal programs for Watauga County Schools, presented the data this week to the Board of Education.
The SAT, considered by the College Board to be the most widely used college admission test, measures students' skills in math, critical reading and writing. Each test section is scored from 200 to 800, making 2400 the elusive perfect score.
In the 2012-13 school year, almost three out of every four Watauga County Schools seniors took the test. The group scored an average of 1605 on the SAT, a full 18 points higher than the previous year's average, Eberle said.
In fact, one Watauga High School student scored a perfect score of 800 on one of the sections, he said.
Watauga's average exceeded all surrounding counties and was good enough for second in the state. Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, always a high-performing district, had an average score of 1770 on the SAT.
Other leading school systems included Asheville City Schools, Wake County Public School System and Buncombe County Schools. The state's SAT average was 1479.
While high SAT scores are a feather in Watauga's cap, it's the scores on another test, the ACT, that matter for school accountability requirements.
Since March 2012, the ACT has been a mandatory test for all high school juniors in North Carolina.
The ACT tests students in four subjects: English, reading, math and science. Test-takers receive scores in each subject ranging from one to 36.
Watauga County Schools exceeded the state average in every category, with the biggest difference in English scores.
WCS students scored, on average: 19.7 points in English (16.8 N.C. average), 21.3 points in math (19.5 N.C.), 21 points in reading (18.6 N.C.) and 20 points in science (18.5 N.C.).
Although WCS did better than the state as a whole, its students cumulatively fell short of state benchmarks in math, reading and science.
When all test subjects were combined, though, Watauga County Schools came in third place in the state, just behind Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and Asheville City Schools.
It was an improvement from the ranking of fifth place last year.
Board of Education members were pleased to celebrate Monday the achievements of the students.
"I'm just so proud," board member Barbara Kinsey said.
The positive news on SAT and ACT scores comes as school systems across the state warn of an anticipated plummet in state test results as a result of changes in the North Carolina curriculum.
The State Board of Education is expected to release district-level data on the end-of-grade and end-of-course tests next month. But statewide results already released show dramatic declines relative to prior years, Watauga County Schools announced earlier this month.
Statewide, the percentage of students showing proficiency dropped by as much as 40 percent on some measures for 2012-13, according to a statement from the central office.
But when it comes to SAT and ACT scores, Watauga County Schools has only good news to share.
"While we keep hearing at the state level that our numbers and our test scores are dropping, when we compare ourselves to national tests ... Watauga County Schools is continuing to increase," Eberle said.