SAT scores decline in CMS, state and nation

Average scores on the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT), one of the measures used to determine college readiness, declined in the nation as well as in North Carolina and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in 2012 – the third consecutive year of declines across the board.
Participation – the percentage of students who took the test, which is not required by high schools – increased in the U.S. and North Carolina but declined in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Despite the decline, North Carolina and CMS continue to have a markedly higher percentage of students take the test than in the nation overall.

The SAT measures students’ knowledge and skills in three areas: mathematics, critical reading (former called the verbal section of the test) and writing. The maximum score is 2400 (800 on each of the three sections).
“We pay close attention to these results because they are one indicator of our students’ readiness for college-level work,” said Ann Clark, deputy superintendent of CMS. “We think that the rigor in the new Common Core standards will help us to get these scores moving upward.”
The average total score in CMS for 2012 was 1463, down from 1482 in 2011, a decline of 19 points. That decline was larger than the nation, which dropped to 1498 from 1500 a year ago. It was also larger than the state’s decline to 1469 from 1475 in 2011.
Scores on the three parts of the test also declined or stayed flat.
In math, scores in the nation stayed flat – 514 for 2011 and 2012. In North Carolina, math scores declined two points to 506 from 508. CMS scores declined four points from 507 to 503. Students taking the test must apply numerical concepts to solve problems and use data literacy skills to interpret tables, charts, and graphs.
In critical reading, scores declined by one point nationally, with an average score of 496 compared to 497 a year ago. North Carolina declined by two points to 491, compared to 493 a year earlier. CMS declined by eight points to 487 from 495 in 2011. This part of the test focuses on reading and gauges students’ ability to draw inferences, to synthesize information, to differentiate between main and supporting ideas, and to understand vocabulary from context.
In writing, scores declined by one point nationally to 488 from 489 a year ago. North Carolina declined two points, falling to 472 from 474. CMS declined seven points to 473 from 480 a year ago. This part of the test assesses ability to communicate ideas clearly and effectively, to improve writing through revision and editing, to recognize and identify sentence-level errors, to understand grammatical elements and structures, and to improve coherence of ideas within and among paragraphs.
In CMS, which has historically had a much higher participation rate on the test than the national average, that trend continued, although the number fell by one percentage point. In CMS, 67.5 percent of eligible students (high school juniors and seniors) took the test in 2012, compared to 68.5 percent a year ago. North Carolina has also traditionally outpaced the nation in participation, and 68 percent of students in the state took the test, up from 67 percent a year ago. Nationally, participation in the test increased to 52 percent in 2012, up from 50 percent a year ago.