The latest SAT scores are out. How did North Carolina students do on the exam?

The average score for North Carolina high school students on the SAT exam shot up 17 points this year, according to new results released early Thursday morning by the College Board.

North Carolina’s Class of 2018. including public, private and homeschool students, posted an average score of 1,098 on the SAT exam, compared to 1,081 for the Class of 2017. The state’s average score on the revamped SAT is now 30 points above the national average of 1,068, which was up eight points from the prior year.

Looking at only public school students, North Carolina’s average score rose 16 points to 1,090 — 41 points above the national average of 1,049. Results for individual North Carolina school districts and public high schools have not yet been released by the state.

State Superintendent Mark Johnson said in a news release that the latest results are an encouraging sign that more North Carolina students are graduating from high school well prepared for post-secondary education or other good options to gain skills needed for 21st century jobs.

“Every student should, and must, have the opportunity to go to a four-year institution if that’s what they want,” Johnson said. “But it’s not the only pathway to success.”

The average state score on the reading portion for public school students rose eight points to 550. It also increased eight points in the math section to 540.

The College Board says 79 percent of all North Carolina SAT test-takers are on track to get at least a C in English in their first year in college. The percentage is 55 percent in math. Both college readiness marks are up from the prior year.

The SAT scores offer more positive news than the recently released ACT results, which showed that North Carolina’s average score remained unchanged and was below the national average. But there are reasons for the difference.

The state has required high school students to take the ACT in their junior year since the 2012-13 school year. As participation has risen, North Carolina’s average score and rank among the states dropped.

With state leaders requiring the ACT, fewer students are taking the SAT since they’d have to pay to take the test unless they got the fee waived. The state’s participation rate for the SAT among public school students has dropped from 70 percent in 2004 to 49 percent this year, although it’s up from 47 percent last year. Counting private school and homeschool students, the state’s participation rate is 52 percent.

Back in 1996 when the SAT was the dominant exam for North Carolina students, the state’s average SAT score was ranked 48th nationally and behind many states with lower participation rates. North Carolina is now ranked 25th nationally and ahead of many states with higher participation rates.

Among neighboring states, North Carolina’s average score is higher than South Carolina (1,070) and Georgia (1,064). But it’s below Virginia (1,117), which has a higher participation rate, and Tennessee (1,231), where only 6 percent of seniors took the exam.

College Board officials cautioned against comparing states at a Wednesday news conference.

More than 2.1 million students in the Class of 2018 took the SAT compared to 1.9 million students for the ACT.

Go to https://reports.collegeboard.org/sat-suite-program-results to view the 2018 SAT results.

The College Board overhauled the SAT in March 2016 with changes that lowered the maximum score to 1,600, eliminated obscure vocabulary words, dropped the penalty for guessing and made the essay optional.

But the new exam has been embroiled in controversy.

High school students around the country demanded that the College Board rescore the results of the SAT exam that was given in June after the scores came in lower than expected. The College Board told students that because versions of the exam given on different dates are easier than others, they use a statistical process called “equating” to grade the answers on a curve.

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui
Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer