Testing data released by the College Board Aug. 25 showed that average SAT scores in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools rose slightly in 2009 while national and state scores declined. The district’s top performers continued to outscore their state and national peers, scoring 30 points above the nation’s high-fliers and 45 points higher than those in North Carolina.

In the combined verbal, math and writing, Butler students averaged 1,553 while Independence students averaged 1,347.

The average score in CMS on the three areas tested – math, critical reading and writing – rose three points to 1492. The state average score was 1486, down three points from a year ago. The national average was 1509, compared to 1511 a year ago.
CMS students in the top-tenth percentile of test-takers scored 1782, up from 1765 a year earlier. Nationally, the average score for the top tenth was 1752, up from 1740 a year ago, and in North Carolina, it was 1737, up from 1722.
“Our top students continue to outpace the state and national averages and we’re very pleased by that,” said Dr. Peter C. Gorman, superintendent of CMS. “These students are competitive for any college or university in the country.”
The district’s participation rate, however, declined for the second year in a row, falling below the state participation rate for the first time in several years. The district’s rate was 60.6 percent, down from 68.4 percent in 2008. The state participation rate stayed the same for both years at 63 percent. The national participation rate, which rose to 46 percent in 2009 from 45 percent a year earlier, continues to trail both CMS and North Carolina.
“Although we’re glad to see our scores rise this year, we have some real concern about the decline in the participation rate,” Gorman said. “This test is a gateway test for college and we want to see more of our students taking it, not fewer.”
District officials said that no immediate reason was apparent for the decline but that they would work with high school counselors to investigate it. Students essentially self-select for the test, which is not required to graduate but is generally required for college admission.
The College Board also released results for Advanced Placement tests. Advanced Placement classes are accelerated to give high school students familiarity with the level of rigor expected in college studies. Almost half – 49 percent – of CMS students who took an AP exam scored in the proficient range, compared to 59 percent at the state and national levels.
“We are pulling kids into Advanced Placement classes – we’re stretching kids academically,” said Dr. Chris Cobitz, the district’s director of assessment. “That’s good for our students, although it tends to hold our average down.”
The College Board provides districts with a prediction for students judged ready to take AP courses. The students are chosen by the College Board based on results from the PSAT, a precursor to the SAT given in the junior year of high school. When only students considered ready to take the AP tests are counted, the pass rate in CMS rises to 70 percent, which is the College Board prediction of pass rate.
“That is further evidence that we are stretching our kids to take more rigorous work,” Dr. Cobitz said. “By increasing access to these tests, we are setting high expectations for our students.”