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Some Students in N.C. District Advised Not To Take the SAT

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Guidance counselors in the Iredell-Statesville, N.C., schools have been told to discourage some students from taking the SAT, and students maintain it is not out of concern for them.

District officials said they decided to advise students not to take the Scholastic Assessment Test until they had completed Algebra 1 and geometry. "We're trying to make sure the students are better prepared before they take it," said Catharine Davidson, the spokeswoman for the 14,000-student district. "We've had a lot of students become discouraged."

But discouraging test results were not foremost in Courtney Kinney's mind. The senior at West Iredell High School said last week that she was told not to take the college-entrance exam because her scores would lower the district average and "make the system and my school look bad." Ms. Kinney has taken algebra and geometry and is applying to two colleges in the state.

She said a guidance counselor at the school, Bob Blalock, also tried to dissuade her from taking the test by emphasizing the cost of the exam: $21.50.

Ms. Kinney said that Mr. Blalock tried to persuade her to take the ACT instead, telling her that it would not reflect upon the district. She said her friends reported similar experiences.

More than 1 million high school students took the SAT last year, and about 945,000 took the American College Testing Assessment. The two exams are widely used by colleges and universities to help determine admissions.

Mr. Blalock said he had no comment on the district's policy regarding the SAT.

Gauging Performance

But Ms. Davidson said there had been a misunderstanding. "This is not necessarily to improve our test scores, although in the long run we think it will," she said. "The problem is, our community sees the SAT as a gauge of how our schools are doing." The district's average score for 1995 fell 10 points, to 831, below the state average of 865, out of a possible 1,600 combined points for the verbal and math portions.

W. Michael Shaffer, a program director for the College Board, which sponsors the SAT, said the board does not advise students to have completed any specific courses before taking the exam. "And certainly we don't condone the kind of practice where students are discouraged from taking any kind of test."

Ms. Kinney said she plans to take the SAT next monthnov or in the spring.

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