The district’s average score was 1343 out of a possible 2400, up from last year’s 1321. The improvement came after a three-year downward trend from 2008 to 2011, when more students opted to take the test.
Superintendent Frank Roberson said higher participation can pull averages down, which is the reason why the College Board, the test administrator, does not publish state-to-state comparisons. Richmond County SAT participation dropped in 2012 and 2013, and higher averages followed.
Roberson said the increases are also a result of teachers incorporating more critical thinking and vocabulary in the daily curriculum to prepare students for the tests.
“What we try to do is ensure that our curriculum is directly aligned with the type of academic challenges that are actually presented by the SAT,” he said. “That’s not teaching to the test, but it’s preparing our students.”
The SAT is a measure of college readiness used by almost all U.S. four-year undergraduate colleges and universities as one factor in the admissions process. The test is made up of a critical reading, math and writing portion each worth 800 points, though the writing score is not often considered by universities.
Georgia’s average SAT score stayed the same from last year at 1452. Georgia students increased two points in reading to 490, dropped two points in math to 487 and stayed the same in writing at 475.
Columbia County has seen a relatively consistent decrease since 2009 but is still above the state average with a score of 1495. Students there scored an average of 508 in reading, 506 in math and 481 in writing.
Scores went down in Columbia County as participation increased over the years. In 2009, there were 946 test takers who scored a 1519 average compared with 2011, when 1,213 students dropped the average to 1505. The average score increased slightly in 2012 to 1506 when 1,166 students took the test but dropped this year when about the same amount of students took the test.
Rose Carraway, Columbia County’s high school curriculum director, said variations are expected yearly because a different cohort of students are taking the tests. The district offers SAT preparation classes to any student who can fit it in his or her schedule; after-school and Saturday prep sessions before the tests are given; and SAT work is incorporated into each student’s 30-minute enrichment or remediation period.
“Whenever scores go down, we want to look and see what’s amiss,” Carraway said. “We think the decline in math scores predominately concern the fact the kids are in a new curriculum and teachers are learning the curriculum.”
Patrick Winter, the senior associate director of admissions at University of Georgia, said SAT scores are a factor in the admissions process but not the most important.
Admissions officers look for a student who pursues Advanced Placement, International Bachelorette and honors classes along with those involved in extracurriculars with good recommendations.
According to the College Board’s 2013 Report on College and Career Readiness, fewer than half of all SAT takers this year graduated from high school prepared for the rigor of college-level course work.
Only 43 percent of SAT takers this year met the College Board’s benchmark score of 1550, which is associated with a higher likelihood of college completion.