After big increase in 2010, SAT scores decrease

Average SAT scores of graduating seniors dropped across the nation and state in 2011, the College Board reported.  Beaufort County School District scores also decreased after a big increase the previous year.
Average scores for Beaufort County public school seniors dropped 17 points from 1,414 in 2010 to 1,397 in 2011.  Last year’s 1,414 district average was a dramatic improvement from 2009, when the average was 1,386.  (The College Board did not provide recalculated 2009 scores.)
South Carolina’s 2011 state public school average was down 12 points to 1,427, and the national average dropped 10 points to 1,483.
“Beaufort County Superintendent Valerie Truesdale said that one reason for 2011’s lower scores might be that a much higher percentage of 2011’s graduating seniors reported having taken the SAT – 67 percent in 2011 compared to 60 percent in 2010.  Testing experts say that when more students take a test, scores usually decrease.
Ninety-two percent of Hilton Head High School’s 2011 seniors took the SAT with an average score of 1,473.  Bluffton High’s average was 1,395 (72 percent tested), followed by Beaufort High with 1,381 (65 percent tested) and Battery Creek High with 1,285 (42 percent tested).
“Our challenge is stretch our kids toward college academically while also counseling them on what it takes to do well on college entrance exams,” Truesdale said.  “The best way to keep these scores up — in fact, the only way — is for students to take the academic courses recommended by the College Board before they take the SAT.  Preparation is the key to doing well and gaining access to more college options.”
Although state and local SAT scores are usually released at the same time, this year national and state scores were released a week earlier than district- and school-level scores.  The South Carolina Department of Education said the delay occurred because the College Board changed its score reporting criteria this year and did not recalculate 2010 data so that accurate year-to-year comparisons could be made.  Those recalculated 2010 data were released by the state agency today, along with local scores for high school seniors who graduated in 2011.
This year the College Board included more 2011 test-takers in calculating average scores than it did last year.  The College Board, which reports the last score of each senior, said that students often take the SAT multiple times to improve their scores.  After noticing a significant increase in students who waited until May and June to take the SAT for the first time, the College Board decided to include those students’ scores in its annual report.  Adding those test-takers to the calculation lowered average scores across the nation, state and district.
“Traditionally, if you hadn’t taken the SAT by March of your senior year, you weren’t going to college,” College Board spokeswoman Kathleen Steinberg told The Associated Press last week. “The good news is more kids are considering college.  You want as many students as possible going to college.”
A larger and more diverse group of test-takers usually causes lower scores, Steinberg said.

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