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August 22, 1996

NC SAT Scores Post 7th Year of Growth

| Press Release  | 1996 Scores | 1995 Scores |

North Carolina students posted the highest average SAT scores ever, continuing a seven-year trend of improvement that has surpassed the nation's rate of growth. North Carolina's 1996 total SAT score is 976. A total of 59 percent of North Carolina high school students took the SAT.

North Carolina students gained two points on the verbal portion of the SAT for an average score of 490 and four points on the mathematics portion to reach 486.

The national scores, in comparison, are 505 for the verbal portion and 508 for mathematics. These scores represent a two-point increase in mathematics and a one-point increase in verbal since 1995. The national total this year is 1,013, with 41 percent of the nation's high school students taking the SAT.

State Superintendent Bob Etheridge called the North Carolina news an important sign that the state has been emphasizing the right things in education over the past decade.

"Over the past few years, we have increased emphasis on the SAT because that score makes a difference for young people who hope to attend college. We have encouraged students to take tougher courses, to take the PSAT and to take the more difficult mathematics courses earlier when possible. As a state we have encouraged innovation in instruction and local decision-making. These things are paying off," Etheridge said.

Since 1987, North Carolina has gained 31 points on the SAT, while the nation has gained only five points overall.

All of the scores being reported this year reflect the recentered score scale that The College Board completed in 1995. This re-establishes the original mean score of 500 on the 200-800 scale (for both verbal and mathematics tests) and maintains the test's statistical integrity and predictive validity. The scale had not been recalibrated since 1941 when it reflected the norm of some 10,000 students from predominately private secondary schools who had applied to the nation's most selective private colleges and universities. As mean scores shifted, statistical standards were compromised.

This year, The College Board provided the recentered scores for the past 10 years to North Carolina and other states. The recentered scores reflect the more than two million students who take the test today, a true cross-section of a more diverse college-bound population.

This is helpful to college admission officers and others who are primary users of the test results. With recentered scores, for example, a 450 each on verbal and mathematics signifies comparable performance in both areas. Before recentering, when verbal and math means were out of alignment, a score of 450 meant above-average performance on verbal and below-average performance on math.

In North Carolina, male students have gained 27 total points over the past 10 years. Female students have gained 34 points. Female students' average scores, however, still lag males' scores by 33 points. The math score is the primary reason for this gap. The average female math score is 30 points lower than the average male math score, whereas the verbal score for females is only three points lower.

North Carolina African American students continue to narrow the gap with African American students nationally. This year, North Carolina African American students scored 16 points below the national average. Last year, North Carolina African American students were 24 points behind.

Several school systems in North Carolina equaled or surpassed the national average score and national participation rate. They are:


    System                    Total Score   Participation Rate
    Buncombe County              1,031            59.6
    Asheville City               1,021            78.3
    Cabarrus County              1,016            68.9
    Camden County                1,013            58.3
    Hickory City                 1,026            80.5
    Davie County                 1,015            57.5
    Henderson County             1,013            62.4 
    Chapel Hill-Carrboro City    1,152            89.3
    Elkin City                   1,051            80.4
    Wake County                  1,042            73.3
    Watauga County               1,026            75.8
    Yancey County                1,024            41.0

| Press Release  | 1996 Scores | 1995 Scores |

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