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Effingham students top state's average in math SAT

POSTED: October 2, 2007 5:04 a.m.

Effingham County students performed better than the state average on the math portion, but scored below the state average on the critical reading and writing portions of the test.

Effingham ranked 65th among the state’s school systems on the most recent scores of the SAT in 2007.

“We did decline this year,” curriculum coordinator Judith Shuman said about the math and critical reading portions of the test. “I think it’s important for us to note that we had a substantial growth last year. Even with the drop we experienced this year, we are still above previous years.

“I’m pleased to know that we haven’t lost ground,” Shuman said.

Shuman said even though the state as a whole declined in math scores, the scores for Effingham did not decline as much as the rest of the state. Shuman said students in the county did perform below the state and national averages on the writing portion.

“It’s a bit hard for me to put my finger on the pulse of what’s happening there, simply because I can’t look across several years of data,” she said.

The writing test has not been administered long enough to provide long-term data.

Shuman said the scores are looked at to see where students are and what improvements can be made in the curriculum.

“We look at, for example, since the writing test is new and we watched the drop there, we will begin looking at our curriculum where that needs to be addressed,” she said.

Shuman said when the system receives the scores they do not get information on the types of questions the students are missing like they do with information on the state high school graduation test.

“We do use this to make some curriculum decisions and to examine what’s happening, as well as to look at where are our children,” she said. “We probably use this in a way the college board never intended. It’s for an admission purpose predictor.”

Shuman said she sees a possibility for the new math curriculum, which will begin for ninth grade students next year, to have a good impact on the math portion of the test.

“I feel confident because this has been a carefully thought out curriculum change, probably more so than any content area that we have had change in recently,” she said. “It’s been structured in such a way that the content the students need to master at the time period in their high school career that they are most likely to begin taking the SAT will be addressed by that point.”

Shuman said recent changes to the SAT had more Algebra II type questions than in previous years, so counselors began making sure students were enrolled in or had taken Algebra II before taking the SAT.

“We didn’t feel like they would do their best on the test if they had not been exposed to the content yet,” she said.

She said the verbal section of the SAT was recently changed to the critical reading portion.

“Frequently those passages are not the type of passages you would think of,” Shuman said. “Because you sometimes would assume I’m going to be reading a literary piece like I might in a language arts class and responding to that. We find that many times the students are encountering technical pieces or scientific pieces or historical pieces, and they’re asked to gather information from that. It addresses multiple language skills, but reading is the primary focus.”

She is pleased with the continued progress of the students and wants to continue the things that have helped them while also continue to offer more help.

Shuman said she thinks the study option offered online through the state is a way to help students and the system.

“One of the features we may be underutilizing with that, as I look at our writing scores, is a piece that allows them to do one of the writing pieces from the SAT and have it scored immediately online as it would have been scored on the regular writing test,” Shuman said.

Systemwide, 298 students took the SAT last year, or about 10 percent of the high school student population.

“We have students who pursue post secondary education in a wide variety of ways, but that’s probably representative of those who are going to major institutions,” Shuman said. 

Shuman said the system has a counseling model that continually helps students with test taking strategies and making sure students are introduced to the curriculum, including classes and after school options.

Counseling student to the right test at the right time

She said good counseling is important. When students are considering taking the SAT, the reason they are taking the test should be discussed.

“Occasionally, we encounter students who think they need to who may not be planning to attend an institution that requires it,” Shuman said.

Shuman said counseling also offers the opportunity to make sure students are taking the appropriate test for their needs. Sometimes students pay for and spend time preparing for the SAT when it is not the most appropriate option for their post-secondary needs, and they are taking it at the appropriate time.

For instance, they want to make sure that a 10th grader who has not had the content covered in the math portion, such as Algebra II, doesn’t take the test and then get a poor score.

“In their frustration, they stop at that and never take the test again, when in fact if they had given themselves time to get through the proper content, they probably would have performed much better,” Shuman said.

She said frequently highly advanced students will begin taking the SAT in ninth grade in order to practice.

“The more times you practice it, the better you get,” Shuman said.

Those students want to practice to have their test scores as high as possible when it is time to apply for admissions to universities.

“For the most part, our general population of college-bound students, we want them to take it at the appropriate time,” she said.

The number of students taking the ACT is rising in the county, and the composite score is rising for students using the ACT as a testing option.

Shuman said she thinks part of the growth of students taking the ACT is because of the growth and diversity in the county. She said various states will push students toward one of the two tests, and some students may be more familiar with the ACT as an option.

She said there are times counselors are advising students to take the ACT.

“Counselors might be working with a student who’s taken the SAT and been disappointed in their scores, and might say to them, ‘let’s look at an ACT option to see if perhaps you may show your skills, your abilities on this test,’” Shuman said.

She said there are not the resources available to help student prepare for the ACT like the system helps students prepare for the SAT.

“I feel good about the fact that without those resources and with an increased number of students taking it the score for that continues to rise,” Shuman said.

Scores

System: Critical Reading 483, Math 498, Writing 457
ECHS: Critical Reading 476, Math 494, Writing 453
SEHS: Critical Reading 492, Math 502, Writing 463

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