County students’ test scores rise again

COUNTY — Pickens County students improved their scores on both the SAT and Advanced Placement exams in 2015, school district officials announced recently.

SAT scores for students in the School District of Pickens County in 2015 beat national averages and rose from the previous year, while county students improved their performance on AP exams even as the district expanded the number of test takers.

On the SAT, SDPC’s mean composite score was 1501, an improvement from its previous score of 1489, above the national mean score of 1490, and well above the South Carolina public school mean score of 1428. The score places SDPC in the top five school districts in the state on the SAT, and at the top of all county-wide school districts in South Carolina in SAT performance.

“Our goal is to be a top-five district in the state academically,” SDPC superintendent Dr. Danny Merck said. “We hit that mark on the ACT, and I’m happy to see us get there on the SAT as well. Those two tests are a very good indicator of how well our schools are preparing students for college.”

In the three tested areas of critical reading, math and writing, SDPC’s mean scores were 507, 510, and 485, respectively. Students improved in all three areas from 2014, and Pickens County’s greatest strength continues to be critical reading, with a score that was 12 points above the national score. However, SDPC’s score in math remained just one point below the national mean score of 511.

“One of the things we strive for continuous improvement, and that’s what we achieved this year,” assistant superintendent of instructional services Sharon Huff said. “It’s encouraging to see our scores rising in each tested area, and I think we can continue that trend until we stand above the national average in math as well.”

In addition to improving scores, SDPC also expanded the percentage of seniors tested to 48 percent, up from 45 percent the previous year.

On AP exams, 721 SDPC students were tested, up from 694 the year before. The percentage of students with a passing score of 3 or higher rose to 68.1 from 65 the prior year.

“Our instructional model is based on rigor, relevance and relationships, and AP performance is one of the best indicators of rigor,” Huff said. “Raising the number of students enrolled in Advanced Placement courses has a domino effect on academic performance. As students strive to meet the high expectations of AP, they gain the abilities they need to surpass other benchmarks as well.”

SDPC remained above the state average of 57 percent of students with a passing score of 3 or higher.

“Expanding the circle of students included in SAT, ACT and AP testing is an important part of our philosophy,” Merck said. “Getting more students motivated and prepared to succeed on these tests translates to getting more students ready for college.

“Participation in Advanced Placement courses is very important for students to be prepared for college. About 65 percent of our students go on to two- and four-year colleges after graduating, and we intend to increase that number.”