NEWS RELEASES 2009-10 :: AUGUST 25, 2009


North Carolina students' performance on the SAT in 2009 mirrored the national trend, with average critical reading scores dropping by one point, according to the annual report from The College Board. Participation remained high at 63 percent in North Carolina, where the SAT is not a required test but is taken by college-bound students. Nationally, the SAT participation rate is 46 percent.

North Carolina's average score is 1,006 - 495 in critical reading and 511 in mathematics. The national average score is 1,016 - 501 in critical reading and 515 in mathematics. The test scores reported today are based on the most recent SAT taken by public and private school graduating seniors in 2009.

Although the SAT report focuses on all students in public and private schools, the performance of public school students remained the same in 2009 and, in fact, the math score for public school students in North Carolina was one point higher than the nation's. When only public school students are considered, North Carolina's math score was 511. In critical reading, the score was 492 for North Carolina public school students, four points lower than the nation's public school students.

In addition to SAT performance, the College Board also reported Advanced Placement (AP) test performance, another measure of college-readiness. On the AP tests, North Carolina students posted increased participation rates and a higher percentage of passing scores. AP participation in 2009 was 47,576 test takers (up 4.1 percent from 2008). Students took 89,344 tests, a 4.6 percent increase from last year. The number of scores in the 3-5 range (considered high enough to qualify for college credit at most colleges and universities) was 52,588, which is a 6.2 percent increase from last year's results.

"The story in North Carolina is about increasing aspirations," said State Superintendent June Atkinson. "Over time, more North Carolina students have decided to take the SAT and AP courses. This increase offers proof that that more young people see education as the key to their future success."

Among the 22 "SAT states" with more than 50 percent of students taking the SAT, North Carolina has the second largest 10-year gain (18 points) in mathematics, behind South Carolina (21 points).

The gap between North Carolina's critical reading and math scores total and the nation's score total is 10 points. North Carolina has been closing that gap for a number of years, posting an average yearly gain on the SAT of approximately three points since 1989, compared with about .5 points for the nation. Since 1990, North Carolina has narrowed the gap from 53 points to 10 points.

North Carolina's math score on the SAT was 511, same as in 2008. The nation's math score was 515 - just as it has been since 2007.

Critical reading scores in North Carolina were 495 in 2009, one point lower than in 2008. The nation's critical reading score was 501 in 2009, also one point lower than in 2008.

The number of test takers in North Carolina increased to 57,147 in 2009, a 1.2 percent increase over 2008. By comparison, the number of SAT takers in the nation increased by .7 percent.

In additional to reading and math, the SAT includes a writing component although it is not commonly reported as a part of the combined SAT scores. The writing component of the SAT has been included in the test since 2006. North Carolina's average writing score was 480. The nation's average score was 493. Since its inception, the writing test results have remained fairly constant for the nation and state.

The number of students taking the SAT increased across all identified racial categories, except for American Indian students, although performance varied by race.

The SAT is one of the college admissions tests widely accepted and required by colleges and universities and the one most commonly taken in North Carolina. The other major college admission test, taken by 15 percent of North Carolina students (13,347), is the ACT. Students in this state also increased their performance on the ACT exam in 2009. North Carolina students outperformed the nation on the ACT with an average composite score of 21.6 compared to the national composite of 21.1. The ACT is scored on a scale of 1 to 36 with 36 being the highest possible score.

For more information on how North Carolina students performed on the SAT, ACT or AP tests, please contact the NC Department of Public Instruction's Division of Communication and Information Services, 919.807.3450.

Complete North Carolina SAT Report
(pdf, 2.0mb)

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 160 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.