This week Richmond County School officials pledged to work to get more to take the test.
Only about 20 percent of eligible students in Richmond County took the test last year, compared to 63 percent of students statewide. A year before the statewide figure was 71 percent and 32 percent of RSHS seniors took the exam.
“Ninety-seven percent of the students in the graduating class of 2009 were on the college-prep tech-prep course of study,” a release from the schools reads. “This means that nearly all of the seniors last year could have taken the SAT, but depending on what their post-graduation plans were, many have opted not to.”
A meeting between central office officials and officials at
Schools Superintendent Dr. George Norris said the district will examine other schools in the state with high participation rates to determine what has been effective in encouraging students to take the SAT and give consideration to the college or university option, the release reads.
“We want to inspire our children to seek more rigorous standards, and one way of doing that is to encourage more students to take the SAT,” Norris said. “We want to see more of our students applying to competitive colleges and universities and we feel the responsibility of showing students and our community the importance of being prepared to attend a four-year university, even if they choose another path.”
He added the district’s desire to see its students “keep their educational and job-force options open.”
RCS Director of Testing and Student Accountability Steve Lear pointed out his analysis of the data found the decreasing number of students taking the test is not unique to Richmond County.
“When I looked at the numbers, the percentage of students taking the test was down in Scotland County, Anson County, throughout the state and at the national level,” he said.
He said there are any number of explanations for the trend, including claims of cultural bias by various advocacy groups throughout the years.
“I’m sure that has something to do with it, whether it is an overt or a covert factor,” Lear said. “And besides, some students are just not good test-takers and colleges realize that, which is why more and more of them are moving away from requiring the SAT for admission.”
The schools release points out Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem is one of the four-year institutions which no longer requires the SAT to get in.
“Also, in recent years the SAT added a writing component, and that has probably steered some students away from taking it,” he added.
In addition, RCS added that many more students are opting to attend community colleges, as opposed to a four-year institution as underclassmen in college. Community colleges don’t require either the SAT or the ACT to apply.
With these possible reasons in mind, Lear said the system “is still exploring and trying to make sense of the data.”
He said a meeting was scheduled with officials at the high school Thursday to mull over options on raising student participation.
RSHS Principal Cory Satterfield said Wednesday that while SAT participation was down, the school did see an increase in the number of students taking the ACT exam.
“I am concerned that the number of students taking the SAT has declined,” he said. “We want to encourage more students to take it.”
He listed the resources available to RSHS upperclassmen to prepare for the test, including SAT workshops, helpful hints for the test and “Words of the Day.”
“We want to find out why less students are participating,” he said.
In terms of scores, Richmond County’s seniors stacked up well against their neighbors, with only Moore County having a higher composite score than RSHS’s total average of 1,394.
This number seems inflated to those who have been away from standardized testing in recent years because the writing component has been added as a third score.
In math, RSHS seniors had a composite score of 484, with a composite of 467 in comprehensive reading and a 443 in writing.
The traditional components of math and reading would have the school’s average score at 951, as opposed to the 1,394 total score.
RSHS’s numbers are higher than Anson County School’s 865 traditional score and 1,271 including writing component, Scotland County’s 900 and 1,330 and Montgomery County’s 892 and 1,314.
Moore County was the only contiguous county with higher figures at 1,045 and 1,532.
The state average falls in between the numbers from RSHS and Moore County, at 1,006 average in math and reading, and 1486 including the writing component.