SAT scores below state and nation

COVINGTON -- On average, Newton County School System high-schoolers taking the SAT are still scoring below state averages.

Eastside High School was the only NCSS high school to post scores higher than state averages in two areas, while the two other high schools in the county posted average scores between more than 20 to more than 50 points below state averages.

"Not unlike recent ACT results, our overall SAT results indicate we have work to do in better preparing our students for college," said NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews in a press release on Monday. "In meeting with middle and high school principals and counselors last week, I stressed the importance of our students taking rigorous course work to be optimally prepared for college and the required entrance exams."

The SAT is a national college entrance exam that assesses how well students analyze and solve problems; typically students take it during their junior and/or senior year of high school. Each section has a possible score from 200 to 800.

Overall, the average 2010 SAT score of the 454 NCSS students who took the test was 1368 out of 2400, according to data released by the College Board. The average score of the 52,632 public school students in the state who took the test was 1442, and the nation's 1,547,990 students scored an average of 1509.

In Newton County, Alcovy's average was 1367, Eastside's was 1445 and Newton's was 1318.

Eastside scored above the state's public schools overall and in the individual areas of critical reading and writing with 492 and 474, respectively. The state's averages were 484 and 471 in those two areas. In math, Eastside's 113 students who took the test scored 479, which was eight points below the state's public schools average.

"The administration and faculty of Eastside High School are extremely proud of our 2010 SAT data," said Dennis Roddenberry, principal of Eastside High School, in the press release. "This group of students reversed a negative five-year trend that we had been experiencing. With an increase of 18 points in reading, 18 points in mathematics and finally a 13-point increase in writing, our students demonstrated a statistically substantial increase over the previous year's results."

Mathews gave "kudos" to the school.

"We look for this trend to continue even as more Eastside students take the SAT," he said.

Newton High's 172 students who took the test this year scored an average of 447 in critical reading, 434 in math and 437 in writing -- the scores are 37, 53 and 34 points, respectively, below the state's public school averages. Although 60 more NHS students took the test, critical reading scores dropped 16 points from last year, math dropped 17 and writing dropped 20.

"The decrease in SAT scores for Newton High School has raised curricular concerns that must be addressed," said Dr. Carl Skinner, interim principal for Newton High School. "Although we are not pleased with the scores, we are encouraged with the increased number of students participating in the SAT."

Alcovy High's 168 students taking the test scored on average 462 in critical reading and 449 in writing, both 22 points below state averages, and 456 in math, or 31 points below the state. Nearly 70 more students took the test this year and scores remained steady -- math increased by two points, writing decreased by two and reading was the same.

"Alcovy's performance on the SAT continues to be a focus for students, teachers, counselors and administration," said Dr. LaQuanda Brown, principal of Alcovy High School, in the press release. "As the data continues to be made available to us, the staff will begin to discuss plans for college readiness, ensuring that we are doing all that we can in regards to preparing our students for life beyond high school."

She said some staff members are researching transition and summer readiness programs and best practices that have proven to help other students.

Mathews also asked the system's Curriculum, Instruction and Technology Department to work with each school's staff in establishing a protocol for students and parents to access when it comes to better preparation for taking the ACT and SAT exams.

"This will likely dictate that we in the school system stop, start or amend doing some things," he said. "Certainly our five-year SAT trend in reading, math and writing calls for such."

The five-year trend on the SAT shows that overall averages in NCSS have dropped at least 99 points. And this year, the average composite score of the 582 NCSS students who took the ACT, another college-entrance exam, was 18.9, below the state's average of 20.7 and the national average of 21.