SAT scores for SC's Class of 2013 rise 5 points, marking 1st increase in 5 years

By SEANNA ADCOX{} Associated Press

COLUMBIA, SC (AP) South Carolina's graduating seniors posted higher scores than their predecessors on the SAT college entrance exam for the first time in five years, and more Advanced Placement tests earned students college credit than the past year, according to data released Thursday by the tests' administrator.

The average composite score for the Class of 2013 on the SAT's math, critical reading and writing portions was 1,436. That's five points above last year but still 18 points below 2008's recalculated figure. The national average is unchanged from 2012 at 1,498, according to the College Board

The test has a maximum possible score of 2,400. The College Board considers 1,550 a benchmark for indicating college success.

Broken down by subject, South Carolina's students averaged 487 in math, 484 in critical reading and 465 in writing.

State schools Superintendent Mick Zais said the SAT, like the other college-entrance test the ACT, is not an effective way to measure school's performance. He said he continues to focus instead on improving children's ability to read.

"Addressing the reading gap in elementary school must be our top priority because reading is fundamental to everything else in a student's education. If students cannot read, they will not succeed in school," he said.

Meanwhile, nearly 24,000 AP tests taken by South Carolina teens received scores high enough to earn college credit. That's up by almost 9 percent from last year.

The number of tests isn't equal to the number of students taking the college-level classes, since many take more than one.

But the number of students also increased by 9 percent this year, to nearly 25,700, again exceeding the national growth rate.

The five most-taken AP tests in South Carolina during the 2012-13 school year were English language, U.S. history, English literature, geography and calculus AB.

"These courses offer students college-level rigor without the price tag of college tuition. By taking advantage of the opportunities AP exams present, students can cut future costs associated with continuing their education," Zais said.

More than 26,300 of the state's high school seniors took the SAT, 457 fewer than last year.

College-bound students often take the SAT more than once to improve their scores. In its annual report, the College Board uses the last score of each graduating senior. In 2011, the board began including the results of SAT tests taken by seniors in May and June, and then recalculated previous years, back to 2007, after noticing a dramatic uptick in students taking the SAT for the first time in those late months.

The College Board discourages comparing SAT results from state to state, due to the wide range in the number of students taking the test, and discourages directly comparing one class to the next.