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Waccamaw High: SATs fall 95 points as more take test

By Sarah L. Smith
Coastal Observer

Waccamaw High School’s SAT scores dropped 95 points to 1,473 this year but remained above the state average of 1,453 and the district’s average of 1,386.

The score was 36 points below the national average of 1,509.

Out of 800-point sections, Waccamaw students averaged 493 on verbal, 503 on math and 477 on writing. Using traditional scoring, the school had a composite score of 996.

“The only reason for our test scores going down was the number of students who took it,” said Chris King, one of the school’s guidance counselors.

A record number of 118 seniors took the test. That’s about 70 percent of the senior class, King said. Only 61 percent took it in 2008 when Waccamaw seniors reached their all-time SAT high, 1,568.

Average scores in Georgetown County are down because more students are taking the test, the school district said in a statement. Its SAT scores dropped 18-points from 1,404 in 2008 while the percentage taking the test moved from 51 to 52 percent.

Waccamaw High principal David Hammel believes more students took the test because they want to go to college.

“We’re excited we have that number of students who want to go to a four-year institution,” Hammel said. “My biggest issue is not the number of students who take it. It’s that [the College Board] doesn’t take their best score.”

The College Board writes, scores and reports all SATs results. Waccamaw students usually take the test several times to get the best results in each of the three sections, Hammel said. Then students send their best scores to colleges.

Hammel thinks the College Board should use the scores students submit to colleges when it determines high schools’ cumulative SAT numbers.

Instead, it adds the scores from all the tests the students took when it calculates school averages.

Georgetown County’s other high schools had SAT averages below Waccamaw’s, but two schools increased their scores.

Georgetown’s score rose to 1,357 from 1,336 and Andrews’ score rose to 1,342 from 1,259.

Carvers Bay’s average dropped from 1,325 to 1,261.

Recent budget cuts that affected curriculum coaches and extra teacher training had an adverse affect on student achievement, according to the district.

To improve scores next year, the district said it needs to do a better job making sure students take the right classes.

“There is no shortcut on these tests,” Superintendant Randy Dozier said. “If you don’t take challenging classes, college prep classes, ACT and SAT prep courses, you are not going to do as well.”

State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex said he wants students to take college prep courses that prepare them for the exam as well as the preliminary SAT, or PSAT, to help schools pinpoint academic strengths and weaknesses before students take the SAT.

There was a 131-point difference between high school students who took the College Board’s recommended courses before the SAT and those who did not, Rex said.

At Waccamaw, all students take the required classes. About 51 percent are in honors, advanced placement or international baccalaureate classes. The rest take college preparatory courses.

For additional preparation, all Waccamaw students take PLAN, a preparatory test for the ACT, and the PSAT in 10th grade.

Practice tests available online in the Princeton Review can also improve their scores. Students got usernames and passwords and will take the review’s practice tests this week, King said.

Hammel and other administrators will watch the review carefully this year and make sure students use it.

If they aren’t, Hammel said the school will contact students and encourage them to do so. “It’s a start,” he said.

Waccamaw will also look at seniors’ fall SAT scores to find students who may need to enroll in an extra SAT prep course this spring.

An extra class will handle additional students, Hammel said.

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