Beaufort County educators got some good news with this year's SAT scores.
Districtwide, the average score jumped 30 points over 2009's average score, even as more students took the test. The average score went from 1,386 to 1,416 on the 2,400-point scale. Scores increased in all three subject areas on the college-readiness test -- critical reading, mathematics and writing.
That's a significant gain.
Bluffton High School's average was up 65 points over last year, increasing from 1,331 to 1,396. Battery Creek and Beaufort high schools also reported increases. Battery Creek was up 40 points, from 1,274 to 1,314; and Beaufort High was up 34 points, from 1,373 to 1,407.
Hilton Head Island High School held steady at 1,508, just one point below the national average for all students taking the test (public, private and home-schooled) and above the national average of 1,497 for public high school students. The school also topped this year's state average of 1,447 for all students.
(Students at Whale Branch Early College High School, which opened in August, will take the test for the first time in 2011.)
Last year, average scores dropped at three of the county's high schools, so the positive trend is heartening and one we hope continues.
The district received even better performance news with the 2010 ACT scores. Beaufort County students' scores on the 2010 ACT college-entrance exam increased for the third consecutive year and again exceeded the state average. Hilton Head High students scored on average 23.2, 3.2 points above the state average and 2.2 points above the national average of 21.
Bluffton High at 20.8 and Beaufort High at 20.3 also exceeded the state average. Battery Creek's average of 17.1, while a tenth of a point higher than 2009, was still below the state average.
More than 300 students in the 2010 graduating class took the ACT. About 720 took the SAT.
After last year's SAT drops, school officials vowed to do more to prepare students for the test. Bluffton High's principal said the school would begin offering an SAT prep class as an elective and continue offering after-school SAT workshops
The district administers a preliminary version of the SAT to sophomores to gauge individual students' abilities. Ninth-graders take a preliminary version of the ACT college-entrance exam. The district also makes available to all students Web-based test preparation software, which they can use at school and at home.
But Hilton Head High's push to keep students fully engaged through their senior year may be the best preparation. Superintendent Valerie Truesdale noted last year that Hilton Head was the only school that required a full schedule for all seniors without work placement, instead of allowing those with enough credits for graduation to leave school early or arrive late.
"There's no mystery to the fact that more time studying equals higher learning," Truesdale said then. "They're seeing some results."
We're glad to see the other high schools adopt the same policy.
It's difficult to top hard work if you want to do well. All of those averages are the result of individual student scores. Those students -- and the effort they're willing to put in -- hold the key.