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NEWS RELEASES 2000-01 :: AUGUST 29, 2000


North Carolina's average total SAT score moved up two points in 1999-2000, continuing the upward trend that the state has experienced since 1989. Among "SAT states," states where more than 40 percent of the seniors in 1999-2000 took the test, North Carolina leads the 24 states in the points gained on the SAT from 1990 to 2000. North Carolina's gain was 40 points during this period, 10 points higher than three other states with big gains.

State Superintendent Mike Ward released SAT scores today at a news briefing in Raleigh.

The nation gained three points in 1999-2000, all in mathematics. Verbal scores nationally did not change. The national mathematics score is 514 and the verbal score is 505. In North Carolina, the mathematics score increased by three points, to 496, while the verbal score dropped one point to 492, for a total of 988. The state has improved its total score each year since 1990, except in 1994 when there was no change from the previous year.

North Carolina has the 10th largest number of SAT takers in the nation. In 1999-2000, 43,077 students in North Carolina took the SAT. This is up 4.5 percent from the previous year when 41,209 students in this state took the SAT. Generally, among states the higher the percentage of students taking the SAT, the lower the score.

After equaling the Southeast score in 1999, North Carolina's 2000 score is two points below the Southeast average and 31 points below the national average. The 31 points still represents considerable progress when compared to the 83-point gap in 1972 and the 53-point gap in 1990. Of other Southeastern states, Georgia gained five points this year, South Carolina gained 12, Florida gained one, and Virginia gained two.

State Board of Education Chairman Phil Kirk said that many North Carolina students do not take enough rigorous courses to prepare them to do well on the SAT. The College Board, which administers the SAT, cites students taking more rigorous courses early in their academic careers as the best preparation for the SAT. Kirk also cautions against using the SAT as a gauge of overall state education performance. The College Board states that the SAT scores are useful in making decisions about individual students and their academic preparation for college and that it is "unfair" to use the scores to rank or rate teachers, educational institutions, districts or states.

The profile of the high school class of 2000 test-takers for North Carolina's public schools looks like this: 46 percent worked part-time, 35 percent did community service, 32 percent played varsity sports, 56 percent were females, 30 percent were minorities, 66 percent planned to apply for financial aid, and 39 percent had family incomes of $40,000 or less. Forty-four percent of the SAT takers in North Carolina had grade-point averages in the "A" range, and 31 percent studied physics, 17 percent studied calculus and 89 percent studied a foreign language. Forty-nine percent expect to study for a master's degree, professional degree or Ph.D.

State Superintendent Mike Ward, in releasing the state and local school district scores, said that North Carolina's trend continues in the right direction. "New student accountability standards, which hold students more responsible for their own education, raise the expectation that students will be prepared for the next level of school. These higher standards also should result in students being better prepared for tougher courses and for college and work."

The SAT report presents results for students scheduled to graduate in 2000 and represents students' most recent scores, regardless of when they last took the test. The SAT measures a student's reasoning, verbal and math skills against the skills needed to be successful in freshmen level college coursework. The primary use for SAT scores is as a tool for admissions officials at colleges and universities.

The only valid national measure of educational progress among states 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.

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. For most schools, annual score changes are not as significant as trends over time.

View accompanying chart which shows SAT scores sorted by local school system.

For additional information, contact your local school system or the Division of Accountability Services' Reporting Section at DPI at 919.807.3769.

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.