LYNNFIELD — The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a significant decline in the number of Class of 2021 graduates taking the SAT exam, Lynnfield High School Principal Bob Cleary said at a recent School Committee meeting.

The SAT exam grades students on two different sections. In addition to the math exam, the test includes an evidence-based reading portion that includes an optional writing component (ERW). Students can receive a maximum score of 1,600.

Cleary recalled that the Class of 2021 took the SAT exam during their junior year, which occurred at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The good news was our mean scores went up,” said Cleary. “The same was true across the state and the nation. We had 55 students take the SAT when we usually have around 150 students take it. There were SAT registrations that got canceled because no one was in school in the spring of 2020, which is when juniors typically take the SAT. There were some people who traveled to Rhode Island and other states in order to take it, but there were a lot of locations that got canceled or didn’t run it at all.”

The data revealed that the Class of 2021 received an average mean score of 599 on the ERW exam, which surpassed the state average of 591.

According to the data, the Class of 2021’s average mean score on the math section equaled 599. The state average was 593.

“The numbers don’t really surprise us at all,” said Cleary. “They are where we thought they would be. The students who were able to take it did fairly well.”

The data revealed 11 members of the Class of 2020 earned scores between 700 and 800 on the ERW port of the SAT exam. There were 16 students who received scores between 600 and 699. Twenty-one students had scores between 500 and 599. There were seven students who earned scores between 400 and 499.

Cleary said there were 10 students who received scores between 700 and 800 on the SAT math exam. There were 14 students who received scores between 600 and 699. There were 26 students who had scores between 500 and 599. Five students earned scores between 400 and 499.

“The majority of our students are receiving scores in the 500 to 700 range,” said Cleary.

School Committee member Jamie Hayman recalled that most colleges and universities waived SAT score requirements last year. He asked if that is going to be a new trend going forward.

School Counseling Department Head Kathryn Moody said test-optional schools are “here to stay.”

“Pretty much 90 percent of schools were test-optional last year,” said Moody. “Many schools also decided to look into three-year piloting programs because they realized they had an opportunity to collect data and the way to do that properly is over a length of time. For example, UMass went test-optional and they are doing it for a three-year period to see what it all looks like. Many schools that our students apply to are already test-optional.”

Moody said the colleges and universities that went test-optional last year experienced an increase in applicants.

“The applicant pools grew and the depth and the diversity in their pools also grew,” said Moody. “There is value in that because schools want diversity, equity and inclusion in their applicant pool. The students who enrolled make up a much more diverse class.”

Moody also noted that the state of California’s college and university system went test-blind in 2019.

“They don’t look at the SATs or ACTs whatsoever,” said Moody. “That has had a big impact on College Board financially. The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams is piloting a test-blind program over a three-year period. It is a state school, but I don’t think the entire state system is going to go that route. Cornell University’s business program is also test-blind.”

Hayman recalled that a former school board urged the high school to increase SAT exam scores eight years ago. He noted that LHS implemented an action plan in order to help students prepare for the SAT exam.

“I am not saying we need to turn around and do something different, but I think we need to watch it,” said Hayman. “We need to make sure time and financial resources go into places that give our students the best opportunity to succeed once they get out of Lynnfield High School.”

Cleary agreed.

“We will be watching that closely over the next couple of years,” said Cleary.

School Committee member Kate DePrizio inquired if LHS officials anticipate fewer members of the Class of 2023 taking the SAT exam this spring.

“I think there will be a slight dip,” said Moody. “Lynnfield High School offered the exam this year and we saw less seniors taking it in the fall. I don’t think we will see a dramatic drop, but it could take a year to tell.”