WINNSBORO — In 2012 Fairfield Central High School seniors reversed a positive SAT trend from a year ago.
The 2012 graduating seniors improved their scores by an average 78 points in the 2011-12 school year, but this year though a larger number of Fairfield High School students took the SAT in 2012, 30 percent to 22 percent the year before, the district saw scores decrease by 13 points in mathematics, six points in writing and eight points in critical reading.
That represented a 27-point decrease for the district compared to 2011. It is not clear what caused the decline in scores, which are still way below the state average for SAT scores.
The 2011 Fairfield School District average score of 1249 was a marked improvement over 2010, but this year the average student score in Fairfield County was just 1222.
The data was consistent with a statewide trend where the average SAT scores for graduating seniors dropped five points, but the decline was sharper in this district.
The statewide average SAT score for public school students is two hundred points higher at 1422.
Clearly there is more work to be done to boost student SAT performance.
“We recognize that these scores represent a significant decrease from the previous year; however, targeted SAT preparation will be implemented to increase student performance,” said Fairfield School Superintendent J.R. Green.
He theorized that one reason scores were lower was due to students waiting until they were seniors to take the SAT.
“Thirty-three points is not that big a drop when you factor in the change in percentage from 22 percent of students taking the test to 30 percent. Seven or eight students taking the test who have not had the proper training could have a substantial effect on your overall average score,” Green said.
He said FCHS will do a better job of making sure that the students who sign up to take the SAT have the rigor necessary in their coursework with college prep and honors classes that they will have the foundation for a positive experience on the SAT.
Statewide, the number of students taking the SAT increased but scores showed a five-point decrease.
A similar decline occurred nationally with a four-point SAT score decrease from 2011.
Nationally, critical reading average score was 491, with 506 for math and 481 for writing.
By comparison, Fairfield County students scored 409 in critical reading, 418 in math and 395 in writing.
Statewide, public school students scored 477 in critical reading, 487 in math and 458 in writing.
State Superintendent of Education Dr. Mick Zais addressed the declining scores overall, especially in critical reading and writing.
“Like the other college admission test ACT, the SAT is not a measure of school effectiveness,” Zais said. “However, within the student population taking the SAT is another data point confirming a troubling trend: there is a wide reading gap between South Carolina and the nation.”
He urged educators to produce a long term solution by focusing on elementary school reading instruction.
“Addressing the reading gap in elementary school must be our top priority because reading is fundamental to everything else in a student’s education. If students cannot read, they will not succeed in school,” said Zais. “To accomplish this goal, we must transform education from a one-size-fits-all system to one that delivers a personalized and customized education to each student.”
In other education news, South Carolina students fared well on Advanced Placement exams for students taking rigorous college courses while still in high school.
Those tests are graded on a 1-5 scale with scores of 3, 4, and 5 as passing scores.
The number of public school students who received credit increased 10.42 percent during school year 2011-12 while the percentage of all-students in South Carolina receiving at least a score of 3 increased by 10.31 percent.
South Carolina students participated in AP courses at a rate of improvement that was double the national growth rate, with
public school-only students showing a 14.26 percent increase and all students showing a 13.81 percent increase.
That positive trend shows successful preparation of students for higher education.
Zais said, “While AP scores are not an accurate indicator of school performance, the success of these individual students is a noteworthy accomplishment. The students, their parents, and their teachers deserve all the credit for these gains.”
Zais emphasized the value in addition to the AP learning opportunities.
“These courses offer students college-level rigor without the price tag of college tuition. By taking advantage of the opportunities AP exams present, students can cut future costs associated with continuing their education,” Zais said.
The five most-taken AP exams in 2011-12 were United States history, English language and composition, English literature and composition, calculus, and human geography. After going one year without offering AP courses, Fairfield School District now offers AP calculus, AP English, AP U.S. history and an AP science course.