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Flagler’s SAT Scores Tumble to Lowest Level in at Least 8 Years as Florida’s Improve

| September 24, 2012

Click on the graph for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

SAT scores in Flagler County fell significantly in 2012, with declines across the board in all categories except for a small, two-point improvement in reading by Matanzas High School students. The increase was erased by a six-point decline in reading at Flagler Palm Coast High School.

The Flagler school district’s combined reading and math score of 969 is the lowest in at least eight years, going back to 2005, falling one point below the previous low set in 2008. The district’s scores fell in reading from 471 to 463, and in math from 493 to 480.

The Florida average for combined reading and math was 984, an eight-point increase over the previous year. Writing averages also improved in Florida, from 471 to 476. But Florida’s overall scores remain below where they’d been for several years between 2005 and 2010.

Flagler and Florida continue to trail the nation, as the state has for many years. The combined reading and math average for the nation was 1010, a decline of one point from the previous year, continuing a downward trend that started in 2005. The national average in the reading portion of the test, 496, is the lowest recorded going back to 1972.

“It makes you beg the question as to whether or not it’s indeed the same test or whether it’s being scored more strictly,” said Shawn Schmidli, the Flagler school district’s testing coordinator.

Schmidli said there are clear areas of concern in the new numbers but notes that unlike other states, students in Florida, and of course in Flagler, may take the SAT or the ACT test) in order to overcome failing marks on the FCAT (the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test). Students may not graduate if they don’t show proficiency in English and math on the FCAT. But if they fall short on FCAT, they may graduate if they get at least a math score of 380 on the SAT, and a reading score of 420. The SAT is scored on an 800-point scale. (See Florida’s rules on FCAT and SAT concordancy here.)

In 2006, the SAT, produced by the College Board, added a writing test, also scored on an 800-point scale.

Schmidli said a significant number of students in Flagler are taking the SAT or the ACT to overcome grades on the FCAT, which explains to some extent the more depressed SAT scores. Flagler’s ACT scores, released in August, declined for the fourth year in a row. When compared to the rest of the nation, Flagler’s ACT scores were lower than Mississippi’s, the lowest-ranked state.

In all, 505 students took the SAT at the district’s two high schools (280 at FPC, 225 at Matanzas), 100 more than did in 2009.

The steepest drops were at FPC. In math, scores dropped from 496 last year to 480 in 2012. In writing, scores dropped from 471 to 457. Reading scores dropped from 494 to 488. At Matanzas, math scores dropped from 491 to 481, writing scores dropped from 478 to 472.

“The positive trend here,” Schmidli said, “is we look at a four-year trend for Matanzas, they’ve actually increased for their critical reading and writing. The mathematics is kind of up and down. The trend we see at FPC, it’s a little concerning, it’s definitely gone down in the last four years.” Math, he said, will be targeted as the area needing the most improvement.


There is a direct correlation between a family’s wealth and a student’s SAT scores. In Florida, students with a family income of $20,000 or less had a mean reading score of 431, and a mean math score of 430. Without exception, scores improve with every jump in the financial bracket. Students in households with incomes between $60,000 and $80,000 had reading and math scores of 500 and 499, respectively. Students from the richest bracket–those with family incomes above $200,000–had reading and math scores of 546 and 556.

There is also a direct correlation between the parents’ level of education and their children’s performance on the SAT. Again, the higher the level of education completed by a student’s parents, the better that student’s SAT scores. Nationally in 2012, 36 percent of all students reported their parents’ highest level of education as a high school diploma or less, and 28 percent reported that English was not exclusively their first language (up from 27 percent in the class of 2011 and 24 percent in the class of 2008), which also affects SAT results.

The disparity in scores between students from richer and poorer families is one of the underlying issues with standardized testing: even when comparing students within a single school, comparing scores alone does not provide an accurate picture of the why and how behind the scores. Florida is also a notoriously stingy state regarding education, with per student funding ranking the state near the bottom, nationally, year after year.

College preparedness is a growing issue of concern across the nation. Only 43 percent of SAT takers in the class of 2012 graduated from high school with the level of academic preparedness associated with a high likelihood of college success, the College Board reported today. These findings are based on the percentage of students in the class of 2012 who met the SAT College & Career Readiness Benchmark, which research shows is associated with higher rates of enrollment in four-year colleges, higher first-year college GPAs and higher rates of retention beyond the first year.

“This report should serve as a call to action to expand access to rigor for more students,” said College Board President Gaston Caperton, a former governor of West Virginia responsible for vastly improving that state’s education establishment. “Our nation’s future depends on the strength of our education system. When less than half of kids who want to go to college are prepared to do so, that system is failing. We must make education a national priority and deliver rigor to more students.”

Schmidli said: “Our goal is to really exceed the state average in everything that we do. Once we achieve that, that’s when we’re going to start looking at the national data.”

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26 Responses for “Flagler’s SAT Scores Tumble to Lowest Level in at Least 8 Years as Florida’s Improve”

  1. Proud Parent of a former Heritage Academy Student says:

    Maybe we should close Flagler County Schools down just like they did to Heritage Academy.

    Nice job teachers and school board. You are realy earning your money. Maybe you should all ask for another raise.. Then maybe you’ll do even worse and get some of our citizens concerned..

  2. rich says:

    Nice job teachers and school board. You are realy earning your money. Maybe you should all ask for another raise.. Then maybe you’ll do even worse and get some of our citizens concerned..

  3. Diane Bixler says:

    FCAT, EoC, SAT, FAIR & others… You can only teach to so many tests…

  4. but that’s what they want. heavens if we actually had a literate populous!

  5. Yellowstone says:

    Not to worry . . . Be happy! No child gets left behind. (Who’s idea was that?)

    Well I heard the real scoop – – “This new dress code is going to fix this and all other problems”.

    REMEMBER: October 9th is your last chance to register to VOTE.

  6. fred8131 says:

    It’s all about the students! You’re all a bunch of liars. It’s all about babysitting! Very few parents are involved and very few teachers care about students. All they care about are their jobs and retirement accounts, period! Money!

    Obama needs four more years to finish fixing it!

  7. Joe E says:

    Maybe parents should be more involved with their kids education.

  8. Ryan McDermott says:

    Interesting article. Decent data. However, I am not a fan at all of the bar graph. The scale on the x-axis makes the decline appear larger than it may actually be.

    Also, we need to think about what these results mean before we come to conclusions. For example, the SAT has an error of about 20 points up or down for each section of the SAT. The value of points is also important. If you miss three questions in the math section, your score can go from 800 to 690 just like that, but then if you miss 13 questions you might now be at a 600.

    I think the most important conclusion to draw from this data is the difference in averages between Flagler, Florida, and the US. The SAT is meant to have close to a normal distribution. We can see that from 2010 to 2011 the average in Flagler dropped. However, the average in the US also dropped almost the same amount, so does this mean that those students were less intelligent than the year before or just took a more difficult test? Colleges compare SAT scores between students because of the normal distribution, so if the national average is lower, the average SAT score at your University for your class year may also be proportionally lower. But this brings in even more factors that I am not going to state because this topic gets so deep many papers have been written on it.

    This article does state that students in FL take the SAT to graduate while other states do not always require that. This may lower our average in FL because only the “college-bound” students who are “more intelligent” will take the test. How BIG of a statistic change this causes is unclear to me because I am uninformed, but it may be a very small effect. It could be very big. Who knows…

    tldr: Be careful interpreting data. It is great that the media is free to release this data to the general public. I love that our country allows the media to do this and I love that the media does release data. However, be sure to understand scale.

    How many people know what tldr stands for?

    And thanks for another interesting article FlaglerLive.

    • Samuel Smith says:

      Totally agree, the lack of error combined with the stretched y-axis makes interpreting that graph sketchy at best. It’s really too bad stats isn’t taught over the course of the k-12 plan.

  9. Edmand says:

    Someone please explain how Flagler can be ab “A” district. What kind of curve does Florida use?

  10. DWFerg says:

    Alarming trend if the test is an accurate measure of true accomplishment—Kids are too focused on what their cell phones look like and what speed they can download God knows what—Surely, teens are a mercurial group, but academic achievement appears to be less a priority and pop culture, fashion, music , sex and cars are interferring with career planning and preparation —Economic development will follow places that offer good performing schools and a welcoming climate to do business—Flagler is falling behind on both measures

  11. Anon says:

    Parents don’t worry.

    Fischer and company’s uniform policy will yield higher test scores.

    • Nancy N. says:

      Yep, those magic polo shirts will fix everything. What’s everyone so worried about?

      In fact I just got ANOTHER recorded message this morning from the school district telling me yet again how great the kids look. See, it’s working! (Someone did tell the school board they are running an academic program and not a fashion institute, right?)

  12. agnese says:

    The school administration should pat themselves on the back…

  13. Lonewolf says:

    Whatever we do…don’t evaluate teachers on this. They don’t like that

  14. anonymouspc says:

    there was a time when people waited to have children until they were able to afford to raise them. That’s no longer the case. So now we have poor test results for the children of poorer families.

    • Nancy N. says:

      Yeah and some of us who are struggling had a family income 3x higher than it is now when we chose to have our kids. The economy has hit families hard. Just because someone is struggling economically today doesn’t mean that they always have been. Please keep your bigoted stereotypes to yourself.

  15. Mary Lou says:

    “Maybe parents should be more involved with their kids education. ”

    That would be like the blind leading the blind. The parents are also the product of the public dumb down system.

  16. Liana G says:

    So, these higher salaries aren’t resulting in higher test scores? We wouldn’t know until next year if uniforms work, but we can definitely question whether increase salaries across the entire spectrum are working.

    @ anonymouspc,

    actually people today are having fewer kids than before. Demographically speaking, generation X, the most aborted generation, is the smallest generation in US history. And while the offspring of baby boomers are a large population, their numbers are actually quite small given the population size of their parents. But families today are indeed poorer despite the fact that, not only are they working longer hours, but many households have both parents working in order to eke out living the American dream.

    Of course, it doesn’t help that everyone who is not rich, claims to be middle class and feel entitled to live the middle class existence, even though middle class status is defined as those making around $200,000/$250,000. Only 3.4% of the US population makes above $200.000.

    Understanding the SAT test data is no easy task. More minorities are taking the test, but data shows that Asians are the largest minority of SAT takers, and are high scorers on the SAT; so much for the minority and language barrier argument affecting scores. But wealth is a factor since these parents are able to afford test prep classes which teach students how to ace the test. Especially if taken more than once.

  17. JoAnn Nahirny says:

    For the past three years, Al Castle and I at MHS have taught an SAT prep class for inerested students. We have found that with the right methods, student improvement on this test is phenomenal. Last year, the students in our team taught course experienced a 59 point increase after taking our class, and the year before, a 79 point gain. According to the College Board, the average student only experiences a 20 point gain upon retaking, so clearly we are soing something right. In fact, we have seen students experience 200or more points increase!! Yet, despite this demonstration of success, the number of students who get NO SAT prep is about four times the numbers who do. The SAT is a test of stamina, lasting almost four hours, with ten sections,including writing an essay in 25 minutes on some esoteric topic that most parents wouldn’t even understand. The truth of the matter is, students need to PRACTICE for the SAT and learn myriad SAT test -taking strategies. Unfortunately many of them dedicate hours to sports or other activities, but don’t view readying themselves for the SAT of equal importance. Honestly, I have data and charts illustrating and proving what we have done in our SAT prep elective, and showing how it works. In would think the district or someone else would be banging down our doors asking us how we get the results WE get… But no one
    does. Sad. There is so much that could be done, but no one ever asks us, “hey guys, what is it the YOU are doing to get such great results.” Ask the 50 seniors who spent time with us last year, many of whom are now eligible for Bright Futures as a result of implementing our strategies…. We can only help those who WANT to receive help, and sadly, many students want an easy A being a teacher’s aide or taking an elective where there is no written homework….

  18. Proud Parent of a former Heritage Academy Student says:

    Thank you Mrs. Nahirny, another eloquent post from a true teacher. Fifty seniors out of how many graduating seniors? Shame on the parents who did not care enough to inspire their students to take your course. Shame on the school board for not honoring positive programs. I truly appreciate your passion for teaching common core values; work hard and reap your reward. Positive thoughts for your journey ahead of you. Stay strong….

  19. Deep South says:

    I have heard a lot mentioned about the parents should get involve in their child’s education. What I have seen being a mentor is that a lot of these kids come from homes where their parents barely have a high school education and hold a minimum wage job., They do not have the education to assist their child with his or her school assignments.

  20. Nancy N. says:

    I have a 4 year college diploma, a BA in Communications. My daughter is in 4th grade. I’m already struggling with helping her with her homework even at this young age, especially in the area of math, because many of the concepts taught are things that we don’t use in everyday life, or in our jobs. I haven’t seen or heard many of these thing in 30 years! Even with her English homework, I struggle often because the homework uses terminology that I haven’t heard in so long in asking her to take apart sentence structure and perform other tasks. And I’m a professional writer! At least every couple weeks I’m sending homework papers back to her teacher with big question marks by certain things that I can’t explain because I don’t understand them myself.

    Add to that the fact that my daughter is a special needs student (autistic) and has difficulty communicating, so things often have to be explained a different way than typical kids can take it in. That’s why special needs teachers have special training – they know how to get around those blocks and get these concepts to the kids in ways they can understand. As a parent I’m often not qualified to teach my own kid, frankly.

    I try my best but I’m sure it feels at times to my daughter’s teacher like she’s not getting much home support.

  21. Jonathan H says:

    This data means very little. The change is tiny, you’re testing different students, and I’m willing to bet that if you do a proper statistical analysis it would show that there is nothing really unusual going on here. Even with this graph, everybody’s scores are jumping around all over the place.

    @Nancy, your comment scares me. I took a look at the 4th grade math standards for Florida (http://www.mathscore.com/math/standards/Florida/4th%20Grade/), and I highly doubt your claim that you don’t use those concepts in your daily life.

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