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Scholastic Aptitude Test scores at Columbus East School during the 2012-13 school year dropped for the third straight time.
While SAT scores at Columbus North also dropped — slightly — during the past school year, student scores at North have been up and down in alternate years over the same five-year stretch.
East students had an average SAT score of 1,487 last year, compared with 1,561 at North.
The College Board reports that scores for students at both Columbus public high schools in the college-admissions test still exceed the 1,470 Indiana average, but the variance at East narrowed to 17 points compared to 91 points at North.
SAT scores at Bartholomew County’s third public high school, Hope-based Hauser, improved for the third straight year — although still 11 points below the state average in the most recent test.
The SAT, usually taken by high school juniors and seniors, is one of two exams that colleges consider when deciding on admitting students into their programs. It is the most popular college entrance exam in Indiana, with more than 50 percent of students choosing it over the ACT, according to the Indiana Department of Education.
Scores last year at both Columbus public high schools were down year-over-year in all three of the SAT categories — critical reading (formerly verbal), math and writing.
At North, however, the difference was small at six points, well within the normal fluctuations the school has experienced over the past five years.
The situation is considered more urgent at East, where SAT averages fell into the 1400 range out of a possible combined score of 2400 for the first time in five years.
“If we do things well, our kids should be able to cope with any assessment that we throw their way,” said Bill Jensen, assistant superintendent of secondary education for the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. “I don’t think we should be seeing this big of a problem.”
Jensen said he prefers the ACT, which he described as more curriculum-based and better reflects classroom performance than the SAT, an aptitude test. But he said he recognizes the importance of the SAT because of its frequent use by colleges to admit students.
East Principal Mark Newell said he will meet with his department leaders shortly after today’s return from fall break to dive into the SAT data and try to figure out what’s been going wrong.
Addressing a trend
He said East students always have discussed SAT scores when meeting with advisers, and Sylvan Learning Center just last year began offering a practice SAT at little or no cost to students to help them prepare.
East has not specifically addressed falling SAT scores until now, because drops in scores mean little from year to year, Newell said. But he said those falling scores at this point are showing a trend that the school must address.
“I’m disappointed, but I’m also looking at this as an opportunity,” Newell said. “We need to be proactive and come up with some strategies that can make a difference.”
The 1487 SAT score was East’s lowest on the combined critical reading, math and writing test since at least 2006, when the writing portion was added to the SAT.
College admissions officials look at high school students’ SAT and ACT scores when deciding whether to admit students to their programs. Many universities do not set minimum SAT scores for students to get into their programs, as they also consider other factors such as grade-point averages and academic recommendations.
However, the average Butler student has an SAT of between 1600 and 1900 out of a possible 2400, said Marc Allan, associate director of public relations.
The Indiana University Bloomington admissions department considers a student’s highest critical reading and math component scores for the SAT. In fall 2012, the middle 50 percent range of SAT scores for admitted freshmen was 1110–1290 combined in critical reading and math.
Looking at test results in another way, here are SAT scores for the 25th and 75th percentile of enrolled students at:
Indiana University: 510/620 in critical reading; 540/660 in math; and 510/610 in writing.
Purdue University: 510/620 in critical reading; 550/680 in math; and 510/620 in writing.
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis: 440/550 in critical reading; 450/570 in math; and 420/530 in writing.
Taylor Schroeder, who was an honors student at East, said she prefers the SAT because it is broken into small sections. She said she didn’t like the ACT because it made her feel too rushed to finish.
Schroeder’s total SAT score was 1940, which she submitted to Purdue, Butler and Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio. She was accepted by Purdue and Butler but didn’t go through with a required interview for Ohio Northern. She landed at Butler, where she is majoring in pharmacy.
Chelsea Wieland, who was an honors student at North, said she liked that the SAT was cleanly divided into subjects.
She said she submitted her SAT results to the University of Indianapolis, Indiana University, Butler University, the University of Michigan, the University of Kentucky and Washington University in St. Louis before graduation. She said each one accepted her, but she went with the University of Indianapolis, where she is studying exercise science and physical therapy.
North Principal David Clark said his school already uses various methods to boost standardized testing scores through the year. He said one is a calculus party, in which math teachers meet daily with students to review complicated material.
However, Clark said he would also meet with department leaders in November to examine the local SAT data and assess what weaknesses can be addressed.
Clark and Newell, like Jensen, said they aren’t fond of the SAT, because it’s a snapshot that doesn’t go deeply enough to show where a student stands academically. But they acknowledge that doing well on it is imperative.
“We always want to do better every year,” Clark said.
Officials at Hauser Sr. High School could not be reached for comment during the fall break.
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