Oconee, Pickens school districts release SAT, AP scores
By Greg Oliver
The School District of Oconee County announced Tuesday that its SAT scores are above the state and national mean, while the percentage of passing AP scores are slightly up from a year ago, and the School District of Pickens County said participation in AP testing has increased from last year.
SAT scores are designed to assess a student’s readiness for college. During the 2015-16 year, the College Board, which is the test maker for SAT, redesigned the assessment. The new SAT relies on two main components — evidence-based reading and writing (ERW) and math — with the essay section being optional. Scores range from 400 to 1600 overall with 200 to 800 coming from ERW and 200 to 800 coming from math.
Oconee County officials say the number of test takers in the school district was up slightly — 155 vs. 150 — from a year ago. The district’s 564 score for evidence-based writing, 548 for math and 1112 composite score are all higher than the state’s 539, 518 and 1058, respectively.
In the area of evidence-based reading and writing, Seneca’s 584 and Walhalla’s 568, were above the state average of 539, while West-Oak’s 538 was slightly below. In math, Seneca’s 564, Walhalla’s 545 and West-Oak’s 531 were all above the state average of 518. All three county high schools’ composite scores were above the state average of 1058, with Seneca leading the way with an 1148, Walhalla at 1113 and West-Oak at 1069.
“Although this is not a test we use in determining our standing in the state, we are proud that our SAT scores are above the state averages,” SDOC superintendent Michael Thorsland said.
Pickens County SAT scores were above the state and national averages, with the district’s overall mean score of 1098 higher than the national score of 1054 and the South Carolina overall mean score of 1058. The school district ranked sixth out of all South Carolina school districts in overall mean score, and 32 percent of the district’s class of 2017 took the exam.
“Students who are on track for college will always have opportunities they need to succeed in the School District of Pickens County, and our strong SAT performance is evidence of that,” superintendent Danny Merck said. “It’s a credit to our teachers at all levels that our students perform well on college readiness assessments. Going forward, the challenge is only to expand the number of our students who see college as a possibility.”
The school district as a whole had a 1098 composite score, with a 560 ERW and 538 math score. Daniel High’s 1148 composite, 581 ERW and 567 math were higher than the state’s 539 ERW, 518 math and 1058 composite, as well as the 527 ERW, 517 math and 1044 composite nationally. Easley High’s 1087 composite, 554 ERW and 533 math were higher than the state and nationally, while Liberty High’s 1041 composite, 531 ERW and 510 math and Pickens High’s 1069 composite, 551 ERW and 518 math were at or above the state and national average.
Pickens County increased Advanced Placement participation by 140 students and 308 exams in 2017, as 955 students took a total of 1,656 AP exams and earned a passing score 53 percent of the time. In 2016, 815 SDPC students took a total of 1,348 AP exams.
“If you compare the numbers from 10 years ago, the difference is staggering,” Merck said. “We have almost tripled the number of students taking AP courses, we’ve more than doubled the number of tests taken and actually have more students passing the exams now than even took the exams back then.”
The passing percentage for Pickens County dropped from 61.5 percent in 2016 to 53 this year and Daniel High, at 72 percent, was the lone Pickens County high school to exceed the overall district average. But Daniel High’s 72 percent, while higher than its 68.5 percent passing rate a year ago, was down from the 82.4 percent mark of 2013 and 82 percent in 2014.
Merck said the passing percentage has declined as the number of test takers has risen but adds that participation is the first goal.
“As long as our passage rate stays close to the national average of 56 percent, we’re going to continue to push participation,” Merck said. “This year we are on pace for students to take more than 2,000 AP exams. Students reap huge benefits from the rigor of AP courses as they prepare for college and careers.”
AP classes are designed to be college-level classes and some of the most difficult available to high school students. High numbers of test takers and high percentages of scores in the 3 through 5 range are both very positive. Students who score 3, 4, or 5 on an AP exam are considered qualified to receive credit for the equivalent course or courses at most colleges and universities.
This year, Oconee County saw 586 exams taken, with 323 — or 55 percent — earning scores of 3 to 5. That was just slightly below the state average of 56 percent.
The number of exams given in Oconee County rose from 489 in 2014 to 648 in 2016 before falling slightly to 586 this year. Seneca High gave 304 exams, with 166 (55 percent) scoring 3 to 5. Walhalla High gave 188 exams and had 123 (65 percent) score between 3 and 5, while 34 of West-Oak’s 94 exams scored 3 to 5 (36 percent).
“We are proud of all School District of Oconee County students who challenge themselves by taking these higher-level classes,” Thorsland said.
Since 1984, every school district in South Carolina has been required to provide AP courses in all secondary schools that include grades 11 and 12.
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