Most of the high schools in Raleigh saw a drop in SAT scores last school year, following a a statewide performance trend for the college admissions exam.
But five of the city’s eight public high schools in the Wake County system exceeded the district’s average composite score of 1,569.
All of the schools exceeded the average statewide participation rate of 59 percent.
Millbrook High School’s number especially stand out. The average SAT score among Millbrook students last year was 1,580, up from 1,524 the prior year.
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Millbrook also led Raleigh schools in the percentage of students who took the test, with 74 percent.
The College Board, which administers the SAT, considers a score of 1,550 a good indication a student is ready for college. The composite score includes math, reading and writing.
Scores typically rise when participation drops, which makes Millbrook’s number particularly striking.
The spike in SAT scores and participation coincides with the implementation of the International Baccalaureate magnet program at Millbrook, said Kevin Gilleland, an analyst in the Wake County school system’s data and accountability office.
“It just overlays that pretty neatly,” he said. “Not that we could say we know that’s why.”
Raleigh has three high schools with an IB magnet – Millbrook, Enloe and Broughton.
Broughton’s SAT score increased 14 points last school year to 1,589.
Enloe’s score dropped 23 points to 1,701, but it was the highest score among Raleigh schools in the district.
At Millbrook, Gilleland said, it’s unlikely only IB students are taking the test. The magnet program might be creating a culture that pushes students to do well on such exams, he said.
Millbrook principal Dana King agrees. She said Millbrook’s SAT test-takers are not confined to the IB program, which has about 140 juniors and seniors.
Many IB students probably take the test at least once, she said, but it wouldn’t be enough to nudge Millbrook to the top of the participation list.
“I think it’s the next tier of students, who always want to do better, are the ones who are committed to taking it and working hard,” King said.
King said Millbrook students know the test was available to them.
The state pays for high school juniors to take the ACT, another college readiness exam, and uses the results to compare the state’s college readiness to students across the country.
The SAT has waned in popularity partly because the ACT is free. Some major colleges have also moved way from using the SAT for admissions purposes.
“We didn’t devalue it here,” King said. “We kept it as a viable option for all of our students. We continued to support the SAT when others didn’t.”
Millbrook also worked the SAT into its curriculum, offering exam preparation as an elective and holding a special Sunday class for students getting ready to take the test.
Those classes aren’t offered anymore, but the school will explore offering the Sunday classes again after The College Board reconfigures the SAT next year.
By the numbers
Average SAT composite scores and number of students who took the exam in the 2014-15 school year:
Athens Drive: 1,612; 274
Broughton: 1,589; 320
Enloe: 1,701; 408
Leesville Road: 1,605; 358
Millbrook: 1,580; 442
Sanderson: 1,540; 251
Southeast Raleigh: 1,317; 213
Wakefield: 1,512; 343