Local SAT scores dive
Traditionally, administrators at Haywood County Schools are pleased to announce the district's SAT scores, which have long been some of the best in the region — and even the state. This time around, however, the enthusiasm has been replaced by a question: a resounding "Huh?"
This year, local students' scores for the college-readiness test have dipped significantly, even below the state average. Haywood County Schools' average score is now 1446, compared with a state average of 1469 and a national one of 1498. While these differences might not look considerable, they represent a startling decline for the county. Last year's Haywood's average was 1540, nearly 100 points higher than this year's. Last year, the score also bested state and national averages by 40 and 65 points, respectively.
Last year's combined results made local high schools the third highest in the region. They've now dropped to 10th. Last year, they were also eighth in the state. Now, they're 39th.
This year, school by school, Pisgah High School’s average overall score was 1410. Tuscola's was 1474. Haywood Early College was the bright spot in the trend at 1526. Out of a potential score of 800 on each component, local students averaged 482 on both math and critical reading and 452 on writing.
So, what's going on? That's a good question — and Associate Superintendent Bill Nolte admits he doesn't have an answer yet.
Scores across the state did go down, he said, "but to decrease as much as they did (in Haywood County), we're not able to explain that at this point in time."
With scores having been consistently above 1500 for years, Nolte explained that at first it was hard for him and others to believe the nearly 100-point drop.
"There was an initial period where we were went, 'You've got to be kidding me,'" he said.
Now that the shock has worn down a bit, Nolte said he and other administrators have come up with only a few possible explanations for the shift — none of which they like. Maybe having increasingly large class sizes has finally caught up with the school system, he guessed or perhaps the students have other obligations that are taking precedence over tests like this one.
"They're maybe not taking it as seriously as they could — but again, that's not a very good answer," Nolte said. "We don't feel good about that answer."
Part of why he doesn't like is because, beyond these recent scores, there's no proof to support it. For years, these same students have tested well on various standardized issued by the state.
"All their other assessment scores look good," Nolte said, "and as a matter of fact, some of them look very good."
Why this trend didn't translate into soaring SATs score as well will certainly be a point of discussion over the next few months. Local schools will soon be heading into the annual Quality Assurance Review process, when the various aspects of each school is carefully explored. Nolte expects these test scores will be extensively reviewed. He doesn't know, however, if he can expect to find a reason behind them.
The district may make changes in the future, he said, "but we don't want to make an adjustment if this is some sort of anomaly that has occurred."
Is this a blip or symptom of a larger issue? Nolte and others don't know — and might have to wait for next year's test results for any real perspective.