FREDERICK COUNTY, VA- It is one of the most important tests many students will take before college, the SAT. The Virginia Department of Education has released last year's scores and it shows Frederick and Clarke County's scores are on the rise.
The SAT is comprised of three components: critical reading, math and writing.
Frederick County Public Schools saw score increases that exceeded the national level, but fell short of the state average. The district's mean composite score was 1512 for 2012, an eight point increase from 2011.
School officials saw a record-breaking 494 students take the SAT last year.
"We have dramatically increased the number of students that are taking the SAT," says Peter Vernimb, the Assistant Superintendent for Instruction for Frederick County Public Schools. "To maintain the level of scores that we've been maintaining is quite impressive for us," he adds.
School officials say student's taking more rigorous courses have helped improve their SAT scores. "We had a 38 percent increase in students taking honors level or above classes this past school year," says Vernimb. "That number has been steadily on the rise. We also have an increasing number of students that are successfully completing algebra two, which is really a requirement to be successful on the SAT test."
Clarke County High School saw an increase in its reading scores from 517 in 2011 to 520 in 2012. Writing scores increased from 496 to 508. Math scores remained unchanged at 511.
Winchester's Handley High School saw slight decreases in each subject. In critical reading, scores fell from 521 to 513. Math scores dropped from 518 to 516 and writing scores fell from 511 to 495. In contrast to Frederick County Schools, fewer students took the SAT at Handley and Clarke County High Schools in 2012 than in 2011.
The Virginia Department of Education reports that although the number of students taking the ACT continues to rise, the SAT is still the primary college-entrance exam in The Commonwealth.
Vernimb says focus on critical thinking and more interactive coursework is pivotal.
"Critically thinking is the key to being successful in Virginia Standards and especially with the revised SAT test," says Vernimb. "You have to be able to apply information. You have to think about it. Our AP exams reflect the same level of thought that students are having to put into these assessments," he adds.
The Frederick County School district says 122 students graduated with 10 or more college credits last school year, a sign of strong student interest in higher education. Although all of the districts fell short of statewide scores in some areas, administrators say they are making strides toward more rigorous and competitive academics.