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North Carolina 2018 high school graduates make gains on SAT

The following is a press release from North Carolina Public Schools

North Carolina’s high school class of 2018 saw performance gains over the previous year’s graduates on the SAT college admissions exam while also opening a wider margin with the nation overall, according to results released today by The College Board, which administers the national exams.

The state’s average SAT score for 2018 high school graduates from all North Carolina public schools increased 16 points overall from 2017, to 1,090, compared to the national average of 1,049, an increase of 5 points from the previous year. The scores reflect graduates who took a new version of the SAT, introduced in 2016, at least once during high school. Among all North Carolina graduates who took the SAT, including those in private and home schools, the state’s average score reached 1,098, an increase of 17 points from the previous year’s average score of 1,081.

On each of the two sections of the exam, North Carolina’s 2018 public school graduates gained 8 points from the previous year’s results, with the average score on the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing portion increasing from 542 to 550 and on the Math portion climbing from 532 to 540.

State Superintendent Mark Johnson said the latest results are an encouraging sign that more North Carolina students are graduating from high school well prepared for post-secondary education or other good options to gain skills needed for 21st century jobs.

“Every student should, and must, have the opportunity to go to a four-year institution if that’s what they want,” Johnson said, “but it’s not the only pathway to success.”

In all, 52 percent of North Carolina students from the class of 2018 who took the SAT met the exam’s college readiness benchmarks, showing they are likely to take and succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing college courses. Nationally, 47 percent of 2018 graduates met the benchmarks. Students must meet the benchmarks on both the reading-and-writing and math portions of the exam.

The College Board says the new version of the SAT is designed to better measure the essential knowledge and skills for college and career readiness and success, as shown by research, and to connect more closely to classroom learning. Results for 2017 graduates showed that 50 percent of North Carolina’s test takers met the college and career readiness benchmarks for both reading and writing and for math, compared to 46 percent of national test takers.

North Carolina public school students improved their performance on the SAT even as a larger number of graduates took the exam, edging up from 44,325 in 2017 to 48,535 in 2018. In percentage terms, 49 percent of 2018 graduates took the SAT, compared to 47 percent of the previous year’s graduates, according to The College Board.

Over the last several years, North Carolina has seen gradually fewer students taking the SAT, now that the state requires and pays the cost for all 11th graders to take the ACT college-readiness exam, a measure also widely used for college admissions decisions. According to College Board data, the percentage of students graduating in 2017 who took the SAT was about half the class, down from 58.2 percent (all schools) in 2016, 63.2 percent in 2015 and 67.3 percent in 2012, when the state first included the ACT as part of its READY accountability program.

In addition to SAT results, The College Board reports that North Carolina’s participation and performance continue to increase on Advanced Placement exams, which can help students earn transferrable college credit and save on college costs. In addition, research shows that students who take AP classes are more likely to persist in college and graduate in four years.

The number of public school students in North Carolina taking at least one AP exam in 2017-18 increased nearly 2 percent from the previous year, compared to a 2.8 percent increase nationally, according to The College Board data.

In all, 75,353 students in the state’s public schools took a total of 140,869 AP exams, of which 75,128 received a proficient score of 3 or higher. Compared to 2016-17, North Carolina saw about a 2 percent increase in the number of exams taken and a 5.3 percent increase in test takers earning a score of at least 3. Students who earn a 3 or better on the exams, which are scored on a five-point scale, can qualify for college credit, although policies vary by institution.


EdNC staff reporting relies on staff, interns, and columnists.