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State’s SAT scores fall since last year

Hawaii’s Class of 2012 scored slightly below the previous year’s class on SAT results released Monday by the College Board.

The statewide average combined score was 1,445, out of a total possible score of 2,400. That trails the national average of 1,498, and represents the state’s lowest combined average in the last six years.

Scores for individual counties or complex areas in the state were not available Tuesday, according to a state Department of Education spokeswoman.

The average Hawaii student’s reading section score dropped one point from 2011 to 478 out of 800, while the state’s average writing score fell by two points to 467 out of 800. Only the average statewide math score, 500 out of 800, remained the same.

The state’s declining performance is in keeping with a national trend, which saw average overall scores decline from 1,511 for the Class of 2007, to 1,498 for the Class of 2012. The state’s average total has dropped from 1,463 in 2007.

In a release issued late Monday afternoon, the state Department of Education called attention to the fact that Hawaii’s public school students took the test in higher numbers than in years past.

Nationally, more than 1.66 million students took the SAT in 2012 — the largest group to ever take the exam. In Hawaii, 9,046 high school students completed the SAT, or 66 percent of those students who were eligible. A total of 5,841 public school students were part of that group, making up 67 percent of those who took the test. That was an increase of 2 percent over last year, DOE officials said.

Higher participation numbers can account for lower average performance scores, according to the College Board.

“Mean SAT scores are not appropriate for state comparisons because the percentage of graduates taking the SAT varies widely across states,” reads a report issued by the College Board.

“In some states, a very small percentage of the college- bound seniors take the SAT. Typically, these students have strong academic backgrounds and are applicants to the nation’s most selective colleges and scholarship programs. Therefore, it is expected that the SAT critical reading, mathematics and writing averages reported for these states will be higher than the national average. In states where a greater proportion of students with a wide range of academic backgrounds take the SAT, the scores are closer to, or below, the national average.”

The fact that more students are opting to take the exam, while performance levels are experiencing little change, shows that the school system is doing a better job of preparing kids for the rigors of post-secondary education, said Anna Viggiano of the DOE’s student support branch.

“As we promote college-going cultures at our high schools, the fact that more students are taking the SAT or ACT is an indication that more students are actually applying to college,” she said.

“The participation rate is going up, and that’s a good thing. Meanwhile, our mean score is holding steady, which means they’re better prepared for the exam.”

Valerie Takata, complex area superintendent for Hilo, Laupahoehoe and Waiakea, agreed with Viggiano.

“Overall, when you look at the number of participants, it has increased, and I think that is a positive sign,” she said.

“The DOE is looking at college and career readiness. And it’s not just up to the high schools. It’s a K-through-12 effort we should be focused on. Our students should be college and career ready. … Yes, we’re pleased that more students are participating in taking the test, but in the end we want to make sure they do well overall.”

Among the complex’s efforts to get more students to plan ahead, Waiakea High has been pushing for its sophomores and juniors to take the Practice SAT, or PSAT, Takata added.

“It’s a good starting point for students as they do their career planning to see where they are as they plan for the rest of the year,” she said.

The data released this week also show that among Hawaii’s SAT takers:

— 33 percent plan to obtain a bachelor’s degree;

— 46 percent indicated plans to attain a more advanced degree (master’s or doctoral);

— 83 percent said they planned to apply for financial aid;

— and, Hawaii’s Class of 2012 sent their score reports to a total of 1,162 institutions.

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