Last month The College Board released its annual SAT test results for the nation and all fifty states. Nationally, the average math and critical reading score was 1017, identical to last year’s score and eleven points lower than 2005. The 2005 class had an average SAT score of 2028, the highest in the re-centered era. Since then, national scores have declined. Although there are many theories as to why, no one quite knows for sure.
Here in North Carolina the sentiments are slightly different. For the longest time the Tar Heel state languished near the bottom of the SAT rankings. As late as 2000, a 31 point gap existed between NC and US mean scores. In the last few years that gap has begun to close. 2008 students compiled a mean score of 1007, a clear 19 points better than 2000 scores, but still 10 points lower than the national average. Clearly progress has been made but much work remains to be done.
When compared to other states in the Southeast, NC students appear to be holding their own. In a ranking of 10 year average scores among VA, NC, SC and GA. North Carolina placess second in 1998, as well as 2008. Average 2008 scores for southeast states include: VA: 2023; NC: 1007: SC: 985 and GA: 984. Among 2008 test-takers, NC students showed the greatest one year improvement (3 points). Over ten years, South Carolina students demonstrated the greatest improvement (34 points). NC students demonstrated the second highest gains (25 points) in overall improvement. NC scores retain a firm grip on second place among southeast states. Still, NC average scores remain significantly behind its northern neighbor, Virginia. While the gap has narrowed in recent years, Old Dominion SAT scores were still 18 points better (1022) than NC student scores.
Aside from some slippage in recent years, NC SAT scores have shown marked improvement over the last decade. Strange as it may sound, the long view may also help to explain the lack of outrage among administrators and educators when they learned NC scores are now “only 10 points” below the national average. Still, such thinking should never be considered acceptable, no matter how much progress has been made.