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NEWS RELEASES 1999-00 :: AUGUST 31, 1999


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North Carolina's average SAT score moved up four points in 1998-99, while the nation lost one point. The gain in NC occurred even though more of the state's students are taking the college admission test, a factor that generally tends to lower scores. This news was announced today by State Superintendent Mike Ward and State Board of Education Chairman Phil Kirk. North Carolina is now at the Southeast average and continues to move closer to the national average. North Carolina's gain is the largest in the Southeast.

From 1988-89 to 1998-99, North Carolina students' scores improved by 19 points on the verbal part of the test and by 24 points on math, the highest gains in the nation for this period among states where more than 12 percent of students took the SAT. The United States, for the same period, had a one-point verbal gain and a nine-point math gain.

Of the results, Gov. James B. Hunt Jr., said, "These scores are another indication of the progress we're continuing to realize in public education, with the ultimate goal of making our schools First in America. Along with the steps we've taken to attract and retain good teachers by raising salaries, to make our schools safer and to have our children healthy and ready to learn when they start school, our students are demonstrating through their advancement that they are accepting the challenge of rigorous academic standards that we demand of them."

North Carolina is known as one of the "SAT states" because a large number of seniors take the SAT. This year, the number of North Carolina seniors taking the SAT continued to increase. A total of 41,209 North Carolina seniors took the SAT in 1998-99, up from 40,007 in 1997-98.

Compared to the nation and to other Southeast states, North Carolina students made significant progress this year. North Carolina's students improved their verbal scores by three points to 493, while average math scores for NC students improved by one point to 493. For the same period, national math scores dropped by one point and verbal scores stayed the same. In the Southeast, South Carolina gained three points, Georgia and Virginia gained one, and Florida lost four.

Nationally, math scores for all seniors went down by one point to an average score of 511. The nation's verbal scores stayed the same for the fourth year at 505. The highest score possible is 800 for verbal and 800 for math for a total of 1600.

The state's average score, 986, reported by The College Board includes both public and private school student scores. The average score for public school students in North Carolina is 983.

The difference between the national average score and North Carolina's average score has narrowed to 30 points for public and private school students. Looking only at public school students in North Carolina and the nation, however, that gap is smaller, a difference of 27 points. If only SAT states (states where more than 40 percent of their students take the SAT) are considered, North Carolina is 16 points from the average score of the SAT states.

State Superintendent Ward said that he was pleased that North Carolina students continued to improve their performance on the SAT. He reiterated that the SAT scores are designed to be used in making decisions about individual students and their preparation for college. "The SAT is not a good indicator of the quality of a teacher, school, school system or a state. Generally, the higher the percentage of students taking the test, the lower the average scores. A much better indication of the performance of individual schools is their ABCs status, released in August. The ABCs and SAT results show that our students are making progress on state and national tests."

State Board Chairman Kirk credited school improvement efforts with North Carolina's continued progress on the SAT. "The scores released today are another indication that we're on the right track to improvement. Our focused efforts to improve student achievement in this state should continue to move us closer to the national average and better prepare our students for college."

The SAT measures a student's reasoning, verbal and math skills against the skills needed to be successful in freshman level college coursework. The primary use for SAT scores is as a tool for admissions officials at colleges and universities. The College Board discourages the comparison of states on the basis of SAT scores alone and considers it invalid. (Please see the attached Cautions on the Use of Aggregate SAT Scores.)

The only valid national measure of public school progress is the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). NAEP mathematics results showed North Carolina's fourth graders above the national and Southeast averages and the state's eighth graders above the Southeast average and near the national average. In reading, North Carolina's fourth and eighth graders are above the Southeast and national averages. North Carolina and Texas have posted the greatest NAEP gains in the nation.

The College Board reports that students who take higher level courses, more than the minimum required courses and the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test post higher scores than their peers. The College Board reports that the proportion of students taking the test is the most important factor to consider in interpreting SAT scores for a state, school or district. According to The College Board, "As proportions rise, scores tend to fall." For most schools, annual score changes are not as significant as trends over time.

For additional information, contact your local school system or the Reporting Section of DPI, 919.807.3709.

Full Report (Adobe Acrobat) |
1998 Results | 1997 Results | 1996 Results | 1995 Results

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.

For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.