South Dakota students improve on SAT 9

South Dakota students improve on SAT 9 South Dakota students this year improved in nearly all subject areas on the Stanford Achievement Test (SAT 9), a statewide basic skills test administered to more than 44,000 students.

"The results overall were very positive in that scores improved for almost all subject areas in every grade tested," Ray Christensen, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Education and Cultural Affairs, said. "Students, teachers, administrators and parents should feel good about these results.

"However, South Dakota's scores in English and language arts still lag behind those in other subjects. This is cause for concern," Christensen said. "We need to try harder to improve student performance in reading, writing and language arts."

Students in grades two, four, eight and 11 took the SAT 9 test. The tests are designed to measure achievement of South Dakota students in comparison to a national norm sample. The sample is selected to be representative of the nation's students in each of the grades tested. A percentile score of 50 represents the national average.

In all four grades tested in South Dakota, language scores are the lowest of all subject areas. The average language scores statewide in grade two was the 52nd percentile. Language percentiles averaged 55 in grade four, 59 in grade eight, and 52 in grade 11.

In comparison, South Dakota's percentiles in mathematics ranged from 62 in grade two to 70 in grade eight. On average, students here also did well in science and social studies. For example, eighth-graders scored an average of 76 in science, while eighth- and 11th-graders averaged 71 on the social studies section of the SAT 9 test.

The statewide data shows that second-grade students' scores improved the most over 1999, with gains of one to five percentile points in all subject areas. South Dakota second graders jumped an average of five percentile points in math, from 57 to 62. Christensen called that a significant increase.

Fourth-graders also made noteworthy gains in math, increasing their average percentile from 62 to 65.

Christensen expressed some concern over this year's 11th-grade scores. While 11th-graders increased their average percentile in math from 67 to 69, other subject areas remained static or declined slightly.

The 11th-graders averaged only 52 in both reading and language, barely above the national average," Christensen noted. "Hopefully, our continuing efforts to stress writing instruction across all grades in South Dakota will help. Reading and writing skills are closely associated, and schools would do well to encourage students to both read and write more."

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 already have received their test score reports and will further analyze and report classroom results this fall.

Individual school district data is available on the DECA web site at or go directly to


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