South Dakota’s SAT scores show room for improvement

South Dakota's SAT scores show room for improvement Average scores showed little or no charge in a statewide basic skills test administered to more than 41,000 South Dakota students last spring.

Students in grades two, four, eight and 11 took the Stanford Achievement Test (SAT 9). It was the first year that second-grade students in South Dakota were tested.

"While test results show that South Dakota students at all four grade levels score at or above the national average, I would characterize the results as status quo," Ray Christensen, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Education and Cultural Affairs, said. "I believe we can do better."

Eighth-graders did the best on the test overall, with average scores ranging from 57 in language to 74 in science. A score of 50 represents the national average. However, compared to last year's SAT 9 scores, eighth-graders' scores in all subject areas were the same or declined one percentile point.

The statewide data show that 11th-grade students' scores improved the most over 1998, with gains of one to two percentile points in five of eight subject areas. The 11th-grade average scores ranged from 51 in language to 72 in social studies. The average science score for 11th-graders improved two percentage points over a year ago, from 67 to 69.

Grade four scores essentially held steady, ranging from 54 in language and listening to a high of 65 in social studies.

Since second-graders were tested for the first time last spring, no comparison scores were available. The second-grade scores by subject area ranged from 51 in language to 61 in reading.

South Dakota students scored highest in math, science and social studies, with the weakest scores in language. South Dakota's lackluster results in the first statewide writing assessment administered last fall confirmed the need to emphasize language arts instruction, Christensen said.

Since then, the education department has focused on ways to improve student writing and language skills, including offering specializes training for teachers on effective writing models.

The SAT 9 is the most widely used achievement test in U.S. schools today. The test features multiple-choice questions that emphasize thinking skills, with questions framed from classroom and real-life situations.

Schools have received their test score reports and will analyze and report classroom results when classes reconvene this fall. For more information about test scores, Christensen encouraged citizens to contact their local schools. Parents of students tested will receive an individual report with detailed information about their child's performance. School district data will be published in DECA's 1998-99 Education in South Dakota: A Statistical Profile which will be available in January.

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