Locally, High School Graduates Score Higher Than State and National Peers on College Board’s 2020 College Readiness Standard

High school seniors in Albemarle County Public Schools (ACPS) continued in 2020 to post higher college readiness scores than their peers in Virginia and across the nation, according to recently released data from the College Board. Students from Albemarle, Monticello, Murray, and Western Albemarle high schools earned a combined mean test score of 1190 on the College Board’s reading/writing and math SAT, 80 points higher than the score for all seniors in Virginia and 139 points ahead of national scores.

The combined test scores are used by the College Board to produce a college readiness benchmark. Research has shown that students who meet or exceed the benchmark have a high likelihood for success in credit-bearing college work.

Three out of four ACPS seniors (74 percent) met the benchmark this year. In Virginia, slightly over half of all students (55 percent) did the same, but less than half of the seniors (45 percent) across the nation did so.

The mean test score on the evidence-based reading and writing section for the division’s seniors was 603, which was 39 points higher than the score for all seniors in Virginia and 75 points ahead of national scores. On the math section, the local mean score was 588, exceeding the statewide score by 42 points and the nationwide score by 65 points.

“These are outstanding performances by our graduating seniors,” said Debora Collins, the school division’s deputy superintendent. “They closely track with our on-time graduation rate of 94 percent and demonstrate the high level of engagement our students have with the curriculum as well as the impact that our teachers’ enthusiasm and innovation bring to the learning experiences in our high schools,” she said.

The results closely track the 2020-21 evaluations of school divisions by Niche, the national education assessment organization. Niche bases their findings on up-to-date data from such sources as the U.S. Department of Education, the Census Bureau, the Civil Rights Data Collection, and surveys of personal experiences from millions of parents and students across the country.
 
In its latest results, Niche ranks Albemarle County Public Schools in the top five school divisions in Virginia and in the 92nd percentile among all school divisions in the nation. In two key categories—college preparation of students and the quality of teaching—the division received Niche’s highest ranking.
 
“Our only strategic goal is to prepare all of our graduates for lifelong success as learners, workers and citizens. Meeting that commitment begins in our earliest grades. These results confirm what our educators, students and parents know: K-12 learning is empowering when it includes project-based, hands-on learning and student choice,” Collins said.
 
In recent years, the division has increased student choices, opening up a center for students focused on completing projects they choose to reflect their passions and career interests. Enrollment at the student center has increased every year it has been operational and a second center will open in 2022.
 
The division also has increased opportunities for student internships and job shadowing with professional mentors. The focus on hands-on learning extends down to the elementary school level, taking advantage of community partnerships through such programs as engineering fairs, digital media, and computer coding.
 
One improvement area that Collins said must be the focus of all schools this year are the fuller implementation of strategies and programs, such as culturally responsive teaching, that have proven effective in reducing the achievement gap between white and minority students.
 
SAT results this year were mixed. Hispanic students in the division scored well above the mean test scores for Hispanic students in Virginia and across the nation, with a combined score of 1166. Across the state, the combined score for Hispanic students was 1059, and nationally, it was 969. Among black students, however, the mean score in the division was 916, nearly 50 points below the state mean score for black students and slightly below the national mean score of 927.
 
“We have a great deal of work to do,” Collins said about these numbers. “Expanding the application of culturally responsive teaching in the classroom will be helpful in shrinking the learning gap, and we expect to begin to see progress from the first full year of implementing our anti-racism policy” she said.

Collins also said the focus on more direct conversations between teachers, students, and their families, which has become standard practice during the pandemic, offers even greater opportunities to engage students and match their interests with project-based learning. “A strong complement to meeting this goal will be our talent development model this year, which will reach right down to our kindergarten students,” she added.
 
Founded in 1900, the College Board is made up of over 6,000 of the world’s leading educational institutions and is dedicated to promoting excellence and equity in education. Each year, the College Board supports more than seven million students as they prepare for a successful transition to college through programs and services in college readiness and college success. The organization also serves the education community through research and advocacy on behalf of students, educators and schools. For further information, visit collegeboard.org.


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