Area SAT scores mirror state, U.S. trends

The release of the 2007 SAT scores Tuesday was good news for some local schools and not-so-good news for others.

The average composite score for seniors in three of four York County districts went down, with only York schools seeing an increase.

There were huge gains in Chester County. The average composite score there increased 63 points from last year.

The composite score is the combination of the critical reading and math scores and does not include the writing section, which was introduced in 2005.

The decreases mirrored a state and national trend of declining scores.

"For us, the concern would be if our trend was any different than the national or state trend," said Harriet Jaworowski, an associate superintendent in the Rock Hill district. "Of course, we want our students to be high performers regardless."

Despite the declining scores, administrators in other districts were similarly disappointed but unalarmed.

"We still had the second-highest scores in the county, and we're above a thousand (on the composite score), which is always a benchmark for us," said Clover High School Principal Ron Wright, who also said he wishes the scores had improved.

But the scores can't be interpreted as cut and dry, or as just going up or down.

The number of students taking the test can affect scores.

For example, in Chester, the district with the largest gains, fewer students took the SAT than last year. In Fort Mill, the district with the largest decrease, more students took the test.

Across the country more minority students took the SAT.

Pleased in Fort Mill

"When you have 80 percent of your students taking an aptitude test and the score is in the top five of the state ... you have to be pleased with that," said Marty McGinn, director of middle and secondary education in Fort Mill. "I don't want to focus on a dip in the score when we should be looking at the overall trend."

Including the writing scores, Fort Mill was the second-highest performing district in the state.

This was the second year the SAT included a writing section.

Because there are only two years of data, it's impossible to see trends in the writing scores, said Brian O'Reilly, executive director of SAT program relations with the College Board.

Colleges and universities still are determining how best to use the additional scores.

At Winthrop University, officials gather the writing scores of incoming students but do not consider the scores during the admissions process, said Margaret Williamson, dean of enrollment management.

"What we want to do is gather several years of data and look to see if it is a good predictor for success for freshmen," she said.

The College Board, which administers the SAT, is working on a similar study with 100 different institutions, so that colleges and universities will have a basis for comparison when evaluating the scores.