However, the increase in SAT scores in CHCCS may have something to do with the rise of the ACT as a viable alternative to the SAT in the college admissions process.
North Carolina administers the ACT to all 11th graders in the state as part of the statewide school accountability program.
The ACT and SAT originally existed in separate geographic areas, with the ACT more prominent in the Midwest and the SAT more widely accepted on the East and West coasts.
However, starting as early as 2007, all four-year colleges that require standardized testing for admissions began accepting the ACT. Students in North Carolina public schools are finding themselves in a position in which they do not need to take the SAT to apply to four-year colleges in the U.S.
In North Carolina, participation in the SAT among public school students has dropped from 70 percent in 2004 to 45.7 percent in 2019 — at the same time as participation rates have fallen, average scores have increased.
Across all three high schools in CHCCS, 46.9 percent of 11th grade students who took the ACT this year met all five (English, math, reading, science and writing) statewide benchmarks on the ACT. East Chapel Hill High, Carrboro High and Chapel Hill High are all in the top 10 high schools to meet all five benchmarks, with Carrboro High scoring just slightly higher than the other two.
Performance on the SAT can also be attributed to factors outside of the school system. In Chapel Hill, 75 percent of adults 25 years or older have a bachelor’s degree or higher, and Carrboro is close behind with 68 percent of adults of the same age meeting that target. Both rates are more than twice the national and state averages.
“One of the things we benefit from is just having a highly educated community,” CHCCS school board member James Barrett said. “Our parents have more college degrees than most other communities around the state and country.”
He also said the availability of rigorous coursework, including Advanced Placement and honors classes, and funding for strong school counseling support plays a role in supporting students through graduation.
“I think it's an entire community focused on education and the value of education and our students are clearly doing great things and going on to do great things,” Barrett said. “We celebrate that every day.”