State public school seniors’ average SAT scores ticked up 2 points from last year’s. But their overall scores remained slightly below the national average, which showed a slight decline.
Locally, Garner High School and Cleveland High Schools reflected the subtle upward trend but remained below state averages.
Meanwhile, students taking Advanced Placement exams increased significantly, and more are receiving scores of 3, 4 or 5 that could earn them college credit.
North Carolina students outperformed the national average in critical reading by 1 point and in mathematics by 3 points, according to information released by the College Board on Tuesday. The state reading score of 493 is 3 points higher than last year, and the math score of 504 showed a 1-point gain. The state writing score of 471 represents a 2-point drop, and is 7 points below the national average. The national writing score also dropped 2 points. The number of public school students in the state taking the SAT dropped slightly, to 50,691.
The combined average score for public school students in the state is 1468, compared with the national combined average of 1471. Garner clocked in at 1428, up from 1420 last year and 1406 in 2012. Cleveland students averaged 1452 on the 2014 test, up from 1438 last year. A new school, Cleveland didn’t record scores in 2012.
The three sections of the test are graded on a 200-800 point scale.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools had the highest combined average in the region, at 1753. The district also had the highest percentage of seniors take the exam, at 82 percent.
Wake County schools had a combined average score of 1577, significantly higher than the scores for Garner and Cleveland high schools.
Johnston County schools’ average was 1467. It had the lowest participation in the region, with only 48.2 percent of seniors taking the exam.
Orange County schools had a combined average score of 1549.
Durham County schools’ average was 1406.
Participation in the SAT has been dropping since North Carolina began giving the rival ACT exam free to high school juniors. Garner High illustrated an exaggerated version of this trend by sliding from 67.4 participation in 2012 to 62 in 2013 to 52.8 this year. Cleveland, which graduated its first 4-year senior class last year, rose from 47.5 in 2013 to 52.6 this year. The national rate remains steady around 52 percent.
Meanwhile, students in the state taking AP tests increased 13 percent, with minority students showing increased percentages in the double digits. The number of Hispanic AP test-takers grew by nearly one-third. The vast majority, or more than 67 percent, of AP test-takers are white, and that group expanded 8.6 percent.
Students took 12 percent more tests, and the number of 3, 4 or 5 scores increased 5.3 percent.
Increased rigor is preparing students for college-level work, they have more access to in-classroom and online AP courses, and schools are encouraging students to enroll, said Sneha Shah-Coltrane, director of gifted education and advanced programs at the state Department of Public Instruction.
“There’s significantly more intentional programming and student access,” she said. “There are more courses and more kids.”
More students received help paying test fees through the federal grant the state receives for that purpose, Shah-Coltrane said. In the last two years, the state made a bigger effort to make sure traditional and charter schools knew the grant was available.
Nationwide, the number of AP test-takers attending public schools increased 5.8 percent.
Staff writer Kyle Jahner contributed to this report.