EDITORIAL: On SAT Scores, Good, Bad News
In a year in which average SAT scores dropped nationally and statewide, Moore County can take pride that its score actually went up.
But there is a downside: The number of students taking the college entrance exam dropped.
That is a troubling development and one that we hope is short-lived. Our public high schools should be encouraging all college-bound students to take the test. There is certainly no hint that any effort is being made at the county level to manipulate the scores by encouraging only the top students to take the test.
Last year, 52 fewer students took the SAT. Percentagewise, that equates to a drop from 56.6 percent in 2005 to 48.1 percent this year. The number of students taking the test spiked last year at 396, or 56.6 percent. We can only hope that the drop this year is not an indication that fewer Moore County students are headed to college. The percentage of seniors taking the SAT statewide and nationally also dropped this year.
High school principals in Moore County say they are doing everything possible to encourage students to take the SAT and to make sure that they are prepared for it. The results bear that out.
Moore County's average score on the math and verbal portions this year was 1,046, compared to the state average of 1,008 and the national average of 1,021. Moore County also exceeded the state and national average on the new writing component. Moore County's score was 498, compared to 485 for the state and 497 nationally.
Also, a higher percentage of blacks took the test -- 19.8 percent this year compared to 19.6 percent last year -- and their average score was 896, up 29 points from last year.
Superintendent Susan Purser said she was proud that Moore County students continue to exceed the state and national average, putting the school system in an "enviable position."
"However," she hastened to add, "rather than comparing ourselves to others, we would rather focus on continued improvement, not only in scores, but in the number of students taking the test."
Factors in Decline
The College Board, which owns the test, attributes the drop in scores nationally on a reduction in the number of students repeating the exam. The price of taking the exam also went up, which might have discouraged some from taking the test -- especially those from families with limited means -- a second or third time to raise their scores.
Across the state and nation, some blame the drop in scores on the test itself. The College Board recently changed the exam, adding a writing component. It cut the length of the math and verbal sections and converted the verbal section into a critical thinking test. The SAT now takes three hours, 45 minutes.
For years, the fairness and pertinence of the SAT has been questioned. Some complain that it does not cover what students learn in high school. Colleges and universities have relied on the SAT to indicate how students will fare during their freshman year. Fair or not, though, average SAT scores have become one of the benchmarks in measuring how well a school system is performing -- in this case, preparing them to succeed in college.
Moore County seems to be doing a good job of preparing the college-bound seniors who take the SAT. Let's hope that the number of students taking the test, like the scores themselves, both go up next year.
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