South Charlotte

Fort Mill, York star on SATs

Graduating seniors in the Fort Mill school district fared better on last school year's SAT than all but one of the state's 85 districts, according to results released last week .

Fort Mill seniors' combined average score in math, reading and writing was 1,558 – 9 points short of those in Anderson 2. The 49 Anderson students – 26 percent of its seniors – who took the test averaged 1,567.

At the time, Fort Mill had one high school with a senior class; 391 students – 73 percent of seniors – took the test.

Another standout was the York school district, which had a 39-point jump from 2007 scores – the best improvement among area districts.

“We're very pleased,” said York Superintendent Russell Booker. “SAT has always been that one area where we just can't seem to get where we want to be.”

Among York, Chester and Lancaster county districts, only seniors in Fort Mill, York and Chester posted gains. Chester County's score rose 3 points to 1,392.

Scores dropped in the Rock Hill and Clover districts. Lancaster County's scores remained stable.

The average score for seniors in South Carolina was 1,461 – up 2 points from 2007. The national average remained at 1,511 for the country's most popular college entrance exam.

The College Board warns against using results to compare schools or districts, largely because of the wide disparity in the percentage of students who take the test from state to state, even district to district.

The test is intended to measure college readiness. Students are assessed in math, reading and writing.

The College Board added the writing portion about three years ago, making the test a nearly four-hour endeavor. Students can opt to take the SAT or ACT, another entrance exam, or both to get into college.

The trick for students, York's Booker said, is to try to determine which test they'll perform better on. The York district pays to make sure all 10th graders at York Comprehensive High, the district's only high school, take preliminary versions of both tests.

That's part of the district's focus on matching students with tests that fit their future plans, Booker said.

Counselors and teachers hold workshops throughout the year and work with students individually to discuss their options.

“Guidance is a big part of this,” Booker said, “helping students and parents understand what these tests are. Our goal is for all kids to go to a two- or four-year college.”

The effort appears to be working.

The 124 York seniors who took the test, or 39 percent, averaged a combined score of 1,469 – the district's highest ever and 25th-best in the state.

Students' average reading score jumped 25 points to 493; math was up eight points to 510; writing rose six to 466.

The Clover school district's average dropped 21 points to 1,469, tied with York at 25th-best in the state.

Lancaster seniors averaged 1,371 on the test – 53rd in the state.

Rock Hill seniors averaged a 4-point dip to 1,452, ranking the district 31st.

“That's really not a significant drop,” said Harriet Jaworowski, Rock Hill's associate superintendent for instruction and accountability. “It tells me that we're about where we were.

“We're not dissatisfied with our scores. We would like for them to improve.”