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NC's SAT Scores Improve, But Still Lag Nation, Region

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RALEIGH — But North Carolina students still test well below the national average and slightly below the Southeast's average. Only South Carolina, Georgia and Washington, D.C., posted lower average SAT score.

State officials frequently counter than North Carolina's low overall ranking is skewed because it has a higher percentage of students taking the test than many states.

North Carolina's 1996 total SAT score is 976. Fifty-nine 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 said the scores show 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," he said. "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."

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

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