SAT scores for North Carolina high school seniors rose this year, coinciding with a drop in the number of students taking the test now that the state is mandating the rival ACT college admissions exam.
Figures released Thursday show that the combined critical reading and math score for North Carolina students averaged 1,001 this year, a four-point increase from last year. The national average score is 1,010 out of a possible 1,600.
Including the writing portion of the test, the combined average score for North Carolina seniors this year was 1,479, up 10 points from last year. Nationally, the score remained 1,498 out of a possible 2,400 for the combined reading, math and writing components.
“I’m particularly pleased to see that students increased their average Critical Reading score,” State Schools Superintendent June Atkinson said in a written statement. “I fully expect to see our seniors’ scores continue to improve as students benefit from the Common Core State Standards.”
Historically, gains and drops in the SAT score have mirrored how many students take the exam. This year was no different as the state saw an 8.2 percent drop in the number of seniors taking the SAT.
Last year was the first time North Carolina began administering the ACT to all high school juniors. The ACT will be used by the state to judge student progress, college readiness and school performance in North Carolina from now on.
Students could submit their free ACT results for college admissions. Some students may have opted as seniors not to take the SAT because they would have to pay for it.
ACT results released in August showed North Carolina ranked last in the nation. But Atkinson attributed the performance to the increase in the number of students taking the exam. North Carolina is only one of nine states that require juniors to take the ACT.
Most of North Carolina’s seniors still take the SAT, which has long been the standard used by admissions offices at the state’s colleges and universities. The percentage taking the SAT was 62, compared to 68 percent the prior year.
The drop in the number of students taking the SAT appeared to help scores in some school districts as well.
In the Triangle’s public schools, the average combined score on reading and math was 1,192 in Chapel Hill-Carrboro, 1,064 in Wake County, 1,038 in Orange County, 1,001 in Johnston County, 986 in Chatham County, 981 in Franklin County, and 965 in Durham County.
The scores increased 22 points in Franklin, 14 in Durham, eight in Chatham, two in Johnston and one in Wake. It dropped six points in Orange and two points in Chapel Hill.
The average combined score in reading and math for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system rose 10 points to 1,000.
Before this year, North Carolina’s SAT performance had been on the decline for several years even as the state’s high school graduation rate has inched upward. The state has a higher percentage of students who take the SAT than some other states.