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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Verbal SAT up, math a bit lower

 •  Charts: Hawai'i, national SAT scores

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Education Writer

Hawai'i students headed for college scored a little higher on the verbal section of the SAT but slipped in math, the College Board announced today.

Sixty percent of Hawai'i high-school graduates this year took the exams, which are considered critical for college placement. Overall, their combined score of 1,001 points was down a point from 2003 and well below the national average of 1,026 points.

The test scores, which are broken down between public and private school students, offer a glimpse into how the state's college-bound students are performing.

"Good test scores can really make a difference," said Ian Helms, who graduated from Mililani High School and is attending the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.

Marie Ayabe, a Punahou graduate who will attend Wellesley College in Massachusetts, said there is pressure to get high scores and impress college administrators. "They're at the top of the list of what colleges look at," she said.

Nationally, verbal scores went up one point, while math scores dropped one point. A record 1.4 million students, or 48 percent of high-school graduates, took the tests.

In Hawai'i, verbal scores went up one point and math scores declined by two points. Over the past 10 years, Hawai'i scores have improved by 10 points on both the math and verbal portions of the SAT.

Public school students in Hawai'i scored the same as last year in math but gained two points on the verbal section, the best overall improvement among Hawai'i students. But their combined score of 953 points out of a possible 1,600 was substantially under the national average and below the guidelines for the University of Hawai'i. UH generally expects potential students to score at least 1,020.

"We are encouraged that test scores for college-bound public school students are improving," said state schools superintendent Pat Hamamoto. "We are also pleased that a large percentage of public school students are taking the SAT and exploring their options for post-secondary education."

Private school students in Hawai'i continue to do better on the SAT than public school students, but their scores dropped from 2003.

Religious school students gained one point in the verbal section but fell two points in math. Their combined score of 1,068 was higher than the national average for all students and equal to the average for religious school students. Religious school students in Hawai'i did better than religious school students nationally in math but scored lower on the verbal section.

Independent school students had the highest SAT scores in Hawai'i, but fell three points on the verbal section and five points in math. Their combined score of 1,137 was well above the national average for all students and above the average for independent school students. Like religious school students, independent school students in Hawai'i scored higher than other independent school students in math and lower in verbal.

"While test scores are important, it is helpful to keep in mind that they are only one measure of student achievement," said Robert Witt, the executive director of the Hawai'i Association of Independent Schools.

In a profile of Hawai'i students who took the tests, the College Board found that students sent their SAT scores to 1,400 colleges nationwide, with the highest number — 67 percent — sent to UH-Manoa. Other favored schools were Hawai'i Pacific University, UH-Hilo, the University of Washington, Chaminade University of Honolulu, the University of Southern California and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Among students who had decided their major, 23 percent said they will study health and allied services, the most popular choice, while 12 percent will study business and commerce.

The College Board is changing the SAT in March 2005 to include a student essay, tougher math questions, and additional reading. Ayabe, the Punahou graduate going to Wellesley, said the essay may give some students who are not great standardized test takers an opportunity to show their talents.

"I think that adds more of your personality to the test," Ayabe said.

Reach Derrick DePledge at ddepledge@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8084.

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