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Originally published: 2012-10-11 16:32:40
Last modified: 2012-10-11 16:32:40

SAT, ACT scores stay high in Watauga

Watauga County’s average SAT score ranks second in North Carolina this year despite falling slightly from the previous years, Assistant Superintendent David Fonseca said this week.


With an average score of 1,587 on the standardized test, Watauga County Schools fell behind only Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, where the average score was 1,766.


“This is excellent news for our teachers and our students and our community,” Fonseca said Monday in a presentation to the Board of Education. “I think the challenge for us is to narrow this gap (between Watauga and Chapel Hill-Carrboro).”


The local announcement was especially positive considering less-flattering news at the national level. The Washington Post reported in September that reading scores on the SAT had hit a 40-year low.


The test, typically given to seniors preparing to apply for college, contains three parts: critical reading, math and writing. Students score between 200 and 800 points in each section for a maximum of 2,400 points.


In 2012, Watauga students scored, on average, 547 in math, 534 in critical reading and 506 in writing.


Those figures put Watauga County Schools third in the state in each section.


The averages show only a slight decrease from the previous year’s 554 in math, 540 in critical reading and 506 in writing.


The percentage of local seniors taking the test dropped marginally in 2012, from 79.1 percent in 2011 to 72.6 percent in 2012.


Each year, about 1 million students take the SAT; only 20 of them get a perfect score, according to information provided by Watauga County Schools.


Fonseca also reviewed student performance on the ACT, which contains sections for English, reading, mathematics, science and an optional writing assessment that Watauga County Schools chooses to administer.


Unlike the SAT, which is an aptitude test measuring reasoning and verbal abilities, the ACT is an achievement test that measures how much a student has learned in school.


Starting in March 2012, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction began mandating that all juniors take the ACT. Those scores will be part of the school accountability model starting this school year.


This year’s scores showed that Watauga County students exceeded the state averages in every category. Compared to other school systems, WCS was second in English, third in reading and writing, fourth in math and seventh in science.


Watauga County scores were slightly below the state benchmark in several subjects, with the greatest difference being a 4.4-point shortfall in science scores.


“This is an area of concern, but still we are scoring higher than many of our surrounding areas and the state,” Fonseca said.


Superintendent David Kafitz said that the scores show him that despite what politicians may be saying in their campaign ads, the educational system is strong in this county.


“I would like to challenge them to come and find where education is broken in Watauga County Schools,” he said.