Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools saw a 45-point increase in the scores of black students, raising the average to 988. The increase has been called a major step forward in the district's battle against the minority achievement gap.
But just north of the southern Orange County district, Orange County Schools saw their overall scores decrease by 32 points, down from 1036 the year before. The drop follows a major increase in the 2000-01 school year, when the district saw a 42 point overall increase in scores.
Orange High School Principal Jeff Dishmon said he can't pinpoint the difference between this year and last. "Well, more students took the test this year, so that could have an effect," he said. "But I really just don't know."
Dishmon said Orange High School is taking steps to combat the problem.
"We're offering SAT remediation courses, open for all students," he said. "The courses are voluntary, and we should be offering them within a couple of weeks."
Dishmon said the setback will not deter Orange County High School's dedication to excellence. "We will continue to push forward and look to increase our scores year after year."
In the Chapel Hill-Carrboro district, officials say the gains made by black students legitimize the system's efforts to decrease the disparity between the performance of white students and minorities.
"It's a positive sign," said Diane Villwock, director of testing and program evaluation for Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools. "There are other signs we measure by, but we're thrilled."
Villwock attributed the scores to the effect of a program called Advancement Via Individual Determination.
"AVID has over 50 percent African-American students," Villwock said. "We gear the program toward B/C students and teach them study and note-taking skills, tutor them and have a SAT prep course once they get to the right age."
AVID, which serves 280 students, is an elective course that is first offered in the seventh grade, although it has only been around long enough for the recently graduated seniors to have been involved with AVID for four years. "We are going to see improvement as more kids come through the program," Villwock said. "When you have that kind of assistance for that length of time, you are going to see results."
Villwock did say that SAT scores are not the end-all indicator for achievement.
"We have several things we pay attention to," she said. "We look at other standardized tests. In third through eighth grade, kids take the end-of-grade tests, and in high school they take end-of-course. We take all that into consideration."
The average SAT score for the city system overall remained first in the state at 1177, down eight points from last year with more than 90 percent of seniors taking the exam. Chapel Hill High School remained first in the state among neighborhood high schools with 1182, while East Chapel Hill is ranked second with 1172.
Villwock said the eight-point decrease in the average was not unusual or even unexpected. "If you look at the trend, we have a couple years of scores going up a little, then they go down some, but they always come back up more than before."
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