SAT scores improving in Tyrone Area School District

The Tyrone Area School District has seen an increase in SAT total scores among its high school students for the fifth consecutive year.
“Examining SAT performance levels from 1999 to 2003 reveals a steady, but noteworthy increase of 39 points over the time period,” said David Eckberg, a guidance counselor at Tyrone Area High School.
Ecberg gave the explanation in an article he’s written for an upcoming school publication. He went on to indicate the increase has served to reduce by almost half, the difference between TAHS averages and the state mean. The difference now stands at 34 total points. In addition SAT math scores for Tyrone students reached an all time high in 2003 with a local mean of 495.
“The strong PSSA (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment) performance that TAHS students have demonstrated over the last few years may serve to bolster these improvements even further as the SAT has announced changes to its test format beginning in 2005,” according to Eckberg.
The change is designed to more closely align the College Board exam to the curriculum and instructional practices in high schools and material found on the PSSA. This includes a new SAT writing section.
Beginning in March of 2005, students who participate in the SAT exam will receive scores ranging from 200 to 800 on each of three sections: Writing, math and critical reading, formerly referred to as the verbal section of the test. The PSSA tests yield results in writing, math and reading as well.
“The intense preparation for the PSSA test that has produced outstanding results for TAHS students may also serve as SAT preparation under the new test format,” stated Eckberg.
A total of 78 students took the test in 2003.
SAT scores at Tyrone Area in comparison to the state and national means:
2003 Verbal score: Tyrone, 473; State, 500; National, 507.
2003 Math score: Tyrone, 495; State, 502; National, 519.
Last year, the Associated Press reported the nation\’s high school class of 2003 achieved the best score on the math section of the SAT exam in at least 36 years, while students\’ verbal scores hit a 16-year high.
The College Board, which owns the nation\’s most popular college entrance exam, said 2003 high school graduates had an average cumulative score of 1,026 points on the SAT, up six points from 2002. Both the average math (519) and verbal (507) scores were up three points from 2002.
The math and verbal sections of the SAT are each graded on 200-800 point scale. A total of 897 students in the United States had a perfect cumulative score of 1,600 in 2003.
Overall, some 1.4 million students in the class of 2003 took the SAT during their high school career. The nonprofit College Board said 36 percent of those taking the test were minority students, up 6 percent from a decade ago.
“Higher SAT scores, a record number of test-takers, and more diversity add up to a brighter picture for higher education,” College Board President Gaston Caperton said in a prepared statement when initial results were announced last August.
“While we certainly need to make more progress, the fact remains that we are clearly headed in the right direction.”
The average math scores are the highest the College Board could document under the current scoring system. The earliest figures date from 1967. The SAT was first given in 1926.
The College Board said the higher scores were due to increased enrollment in advanced math and science courses such as physics, precalculus, calculus and chemistry.
The president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics credited teaching methods that make math meaningful.
“(Students are) looking at problems that don\’t just involve pure calculation and computation-type of mathematics,” said Johnny Lott. “They\’re looking at real-world problem solving.”
Female test-takers also have improved notably in math over the last decade, with their average scores increasing 19 points to 503. Male math scores have gone up 13 points over the same period of time to 537.
Females also averaged 503 on the 2003 verbal exam (up a point from last year), while males averaged 512, a jump of 5 points from 2002.
The board said 54 percent of the test-takers were female and 46 percent were male.
SAT scores play a role in the admissions process at 80 percent of the nation\’s colleges and universities.
Along with the ACT, the country\’s second-largest test-maker, the SAT has come under fire from critics who maintain high schools and colleges place too much emphasis on standardized entrance exams. Others contend the tests are unfair to students coming from poorer school districts.
Results from both tests in 2003 showed the gap between the scores of white students and non-Asian minorities continues to persist.
While high school students have participated in more college preparatory math and science classes since 1993, the board found that enrollment in English composition courses dropped from 79 percent to 66 percent.
“Rigorous preparation in this area is crucial for students\’ success in college and beyond,” Caperton said.
Tyrone’s combined SAT score is 968 versus a state combined score of 1002. Bellwood-Antis High School had a total of 81 students take the test with scores of 504 for verbal and 516 for math, with a combined score of 1020, slightly higher than the state mean score.
The top public school in the state is Masterman in the Philadelphia School District, its combined SAT score is 1271. The top nonpublic school is also located in the Philadelphia area, students taking the test at the Germantown Friends school scored a combined 1316 on the test.
The nearest local schools among the top-ranked are in Allegheny County. Among public schools, Mt. Lebanon ranked sixth and Upper St. Clair ranked eighth. Among non-public schools, Sewickley Academy ranked third with a combined SAT score of 1288.
(The Associated Press contributed to this article.)