Skewing The Average

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Guidance counselors in the Iredell-Statesville, N.C., schools have been discouraging some students from taking the SAT, and students maintain it is not out of concern for them. District officials say 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,'' says Catharine Davidson, spokeswoman for the 14,000-student district. "We've had a lot of students become discouraged.''

But Courtney Kinney, a senior at West Iredell High School, says she was urged not to take the college-entrance exam for a different reason: She was told her scores would lower the district average and "make the system and my school look bad.'' Courtney has already taken algebra and geometry and is applying to two state colleges.

School guidance counselor Bob Blalock, she says, tried to persuade her to take the ACT instead of the SAT, telling her that her score on that test would not reflect upon the district. She says 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.

Blalock had no comment on the district's policy regarding the SAT. But Davidson, the district spokeswoman, says there had been a misunderstanding. "This is not necessarily to improve our test scores, although in the long run we think it will,'' she says. "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, out of a possible 1,600 combined points for the verbal and math portions. That's way below the state average of 865.

W. Michael Shaffer, a program director for the College Board, which sponsors the SAT, says the board does not advise students to complete 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,'' he says.

Courtney, meanwhile, says she plans to take the SAT this winter or in the spring.

--Laura Miller

Vol. 07, Issue 04, Page 1-24

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