Easier test, higher scores – what the new SAT results say about - | WBTV Charlotte

Easier test, higher scores – what the new SAT results say about your school

Lake Norman Charter School in Huntersville had the second-highest SAT average in the Charlotte area, after Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s Providence High. (John D. Simmons/The Charlotte Observer) Lake Norman Charter School in Huntersville had the second-highest SAT average in the Charlotte area, after Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s Providence High. (John D. Simmons/The Charlotte Observer)

CHARLOTTE, NC (Ann Doss Helms and T. Keung Hui/The Charlotte Observer) - Average SAT scores shot up in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and across North Carolina, as the state released results from a college admission exam that was tweaked to reflect modern needs over academic tradition.

Starting in spring of 2016, The College Board eliminated obscure vocabulary words, dropped the penalty for guessing and made the essay optional. That brought the maximum score back down to 1,600 – the level known to generations of college-bound students who took the test before the essay was added in 2005.

North Carolina’s public school students scored an average of 1,074 on the math and English sections of the current exam, compared with an average of 1,010 for those two sections in 2016. In CMS the average rose from 1,001 to 1,066.

Providence High in south Charlotte logged the county’s highest score, with an average of 1,239. Lake Norman Charter School in Huntersville was second with 1,201 (see accompanying box for all Mecklenburg schools).

Providence High in south Charlotte logged the county’s highest score, with an average of 1,239. Lake Norman Charter School in Huntersville was second with 1,201 (see accompanying box for all Mecklenburg schools).

DOCUMENT: Find SAT results for all N.C. public schools

High SAT scores can matter. This year’s average SAT score for N.C. State’s freshmen class was 1,308. At UNC-Chapel Hill, scores for the middle 50 percent of freshmen admitted ranged from 640 to 720 on the reading section and 630 to 730 on the math section.

The College Board, which administers the SAT, says the revisions weren’t designed to bump up the numbers but to better reflect the vocabulary and math skills that today’s students need.

Drawing meaningful comparisons from the averages is difficult. Unlike the ACT, a college readiness exam that is given to all North Carolina 11th-graders, the SAT is optional. Self-selection means the test-takers at one school may include only the most motivated students aiming for college, while another school may encourage larger numbers to take the test.

SAT participation rates dropped this year, in CMS and statewide, following a trend that started in 2012 when the state started requiring the ACT.

The average scores also tend to track school demographics, with low-poverty suburban schools at the top of the list and high-poverty urban ones at the bottom. Families with means and motivation can send their children to SAT-prep courses (the test itself costs $46 without the essay and $60 with it).

Not surprisingly, high schools with admission requirements also logged strong averages. The N.C. School of Science and Mathematics, a public boarding school in Durham that serves gifted students from across the state, had the state’s highest average SAT score at 1,410. In CMS, Levine and Cato middle college high schools were in the county’s top five.

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system had the state’s highest districtwide average at 1,231. Wake County, the state’s largest, averaged 1,130, while CMS came in below the state average at 1,066.

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