District addressing lower SAT scores

By: By Erin Smith - erinsmith@civitasmedia.com

ELIZABETHTOWN — The state’s Department of Public Education recently released SAT results, and those results are not as strong as Bladen County Schools officials would like.

“SAT scores are down across the state. As a state, the scores are down by about five points,” said Bladen County Schools Superintendent Robert Taylor.

“For Bladen County, you also have to recognize that you are comparing apples to oranges. You had a totally different group of students test this year,” said Taylor.

Taylor also said that the SAT test is no longer part of the accountability model. He explained that, instead, more colleges are moving towards using the ACT.

He said while the district is moving away from SATs and focusing more on the ACT, they are still providing assistance for those students who wish to take the SAT. Taylor said the school district is providing an SAT Prep course at both East Bladen High School and West Bladen High School.

Taylor said that West Bladen has a course where students are able to come and do exam preparation work. He added that there are both ACT and SAT preparation courses available online at both East Bladen and West Bladen.

Taylor said the primary focus is now the Pre-ACT and the ACT test, with less emphasis on the SATs. Taylor said all high-school juniors take the ACT test. He said the first time they take it, it is paid for by the state. He added they can choose to retake the ACT test if they want, but the student must pay for it after the first attempt.

Taylor said the school district has also put into place a college study skills course where students complete college level course work and learn how to prepare for and study for college-level courses. He added that through the New Schools program, the district has been able to give students access to a college curriculum.

“It’s a lot more rigorous than they think it will be,” said Taylor of the courses.

He said because of the students’ exposure to college courses earlier, the district hopes to see results from the students when they get to their senior year of high school and take the SAT test.

Taylor said the district is also encouraging teachers to teach more rigorously in the classroom.

He added that with the New Schools program, students can actually sign up for and take college-level courses while still in high school. If the students successfully complete those courses, they will receive college credit for them.

“In the past, students have taken advanced placement courses. In order to get college credit for them, they had to score a three, four or five on the state’s AP exam,” said Taylor.

He said the district was finding that not all of the students were earning the scores necessary to get college credit.

“With New Schools, kids are enrolled at ECU, UNC-Greensboro and Bladen Community College and it goes on their transcript,” said Taylor.

He said exposure to these types of courses help the students to do better on the SAT test, should the student choose to take it.

“It is all about the different things we have put in place to help the students to do better,” said Taylor.

He added, “I caution people to remember, that as we move away from the SAT test, we are going to have fewer students taking the test and the greater volatility you will have in the test scores.”

Taylor said with the SAT test scores, there is no average that can be tracked because many students will choose to take the SAT test one time. He said with the state test scores (the end-of-grade test and end-of-course tests) students take those tests periodically throughout their academic career.

Erin Smith can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.

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