More Everett district students taking SAT test

EVERETT — High school students in Snohomish County generally scored higher on the overhauled SAT exam, first given this spring, than the statewide average.

The numbers were released last week by the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction based on data from College Board, which handles the SAT exam and Advanced Placement or AP tests, among other college prep programs. The SAT is used by colleges and universities for admissions and can be used by students to meet state graduation requirements. AP tests can earn a student college credit if they score high enough.

Everett Public Schools saw lower SAT scores than the state average, which was 501 in reading, 506 in math and 481 in writing on a scale of 200 to 800. However, there was a jump in the number of students who took the test this year and last compared to previous years. In spring 2016, 1,181 Everett students took the exam. No other local school district had more than 820 test takers.

Everett broke the 1,000 mark last year, as well. They had roughly 500 to 600 students take the SAT in years before. Exact comparisons to past years are challenging. Along with the new test, College Board this year changed how it processes the numbers. However, Everett has seen an increase in participation based on district tallies, said Catherine Matthews, director of assessment and research for the district.

The big jump happened in 2015, she said, when the district first started offering the SAT for free during the school day to all juniors. Students can choose to retake the test for a better score as seniors at their own expense. Everett high schools also offer the PSAT to sophomores for free during school. The PSAT helps prepare for the SAT and gives students an idea of what subjects they might do well in for AP classes.

“One of the things to remember when you’re doing school-day testing is you’re committing to test every student regardless of academic ability,” Matthews said. “It’s inspirational and aspirational for those students because a lot of students don’t see themselves as college material, but taking a test like this can help them see, ‘Wow, I can really do this.’”

Offering the test during school is not required of districts, though multiple high schools do so. Some local districts offer the test during school but students must pay a fee. In some cases, a limited number of tests are available during the school day each year and it’s first come, first serve. In other districts, students may need to sign up and pay to take the test at another location or on their own time.

Making the test part of the school day and removing the fee for students has been an important step in creating equal opportunities, Matthews said.

“It’s a barrier for kids,” she said. “If they don’t take the SAT, it’s hard to finish college admissions.”

Other tests, usually the ACT, can be used for admissions and many colleges have their own set of requirements and exams, but the SAT is widely used and a good starting point.

Teachers and principals at Everett high schools also have been encouraging students to take AP classes, Matthews said. More students are taking those tests, as well. This year, 1,171 Everett students took AP tests.

Countywide, most school districts saw fewer students with high enough AP scores to earn college credit than the statewide average of 59 percent. Mukilteo, Northshore and Snohomish were above the state average.

Statewide, the number of students taking the SAT has remained steady year-over-year but participation has increased for the PSAT and AP tests, according to the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The state has approved college entrance exams and some AP tests as substitutes for the standardized tests required to graduate high school.

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