Published in the November 11, 2015 edition
By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — The Class of 2015’s SAT scores increased for the second straight year, Lynnfield High Principal Bob Cleary told the School Committee Nov. 3.
Students are graded on three different areas on the SAT — critical reading, writing and math for a combined score of 2400. The Class of 2015’s average mean score for all three areas was 1643. The Class of 2014’s average mean score was 1604.
The high school’s SAT scores have been a growing concern for the School Committee the past couple of years. In order to address the SAT’s downward trend, high school officials developed an SAT improvement plan to boost scores.
“We are really excited to see improvement in all three categories,” said Cleary. “We had seen a downward trend for the last six or seven years prior to a few years ago when we starting implementing a few (strategies) to address that. We have seen some improvement the last couple of years and we hope we can continue that (trend).”
The data revealed the average critical reading score increased by 17 points, from 520 to 537. The average writing score was 544, representing a 10 point increase from the Class of 2014’s average score of 534.
Cleary attributed the increase in the SAT critical reading and writing scores to the high school incorporating more timed writing assignments in class and revamping its vocabulary program.
According to the data, the Class of 2015’s average math score was 562, representing a 12 point increase from the Class of 2014’s average math score of 550.
Cleary also noted math teachers have been implementing SAT-inspired “problem of the day” math questions in class.
“We tried to have our SAT practice problems be more topical,” said Cleary.
The data Cleary presented to the School Committee were SAT scores taken by last year’s graduates in the spring of 2014. There were 142 students who took the SAT out of the 151 members of the Class of 2015.
“We are obviously excited for the improvement not only because we have got better test scores but also because of the impact SATs have on college acceptance,” said Cleary. “There is no doubt SAT performance gives students a number of options.”
According to the data, nine students’ critical reading scores were between 700 and 800. There were 13 students whose SAT writing scores were between 700 and 800. There were 14 students whose SAT math scores were between 700 and 800.
Additionally, there were 35 students whose SAT critical reading scores were between 600 and 690. There were 29 students whose SAT writing scores were between 600 and 690. There were 41 members of the Class of 2015 whose SAT math scores were between 600 and 690.
According to the data, 53 students’ SAT critical reading scores were between 500 and 590. There were 56 members of the Class of 2015 who received scores between 500 and 590 on the SAT writing exam. There were 48 members of the Class of 2015 whose SAT math scores were between 500 and 590.
Cleary also presented average SAT mean score data from area communities Hamilton-Wenham, Masconomet, North Andover, North Reading, Swampscott, Rockport and Wakefield. Lynnfield High School’s average critical reading score was higher than Rockport, Swampscott and Wakefield, but was lower than Hamilton-Wenham, Masco, North Andover and North Reading.
LHS’ average writing score was higher than North Andover, North Reading, Rockport, Swampscott and Wakefield, but the Class of 2015’s scores was lower than Hamilton-Wenham and Masco.
Similar to the average writing scores, the high school’s average math scores were higher than North Andover, North Reading, Rockport, Swampscott and Wakefield, but the scores were lower than Hamilton-Wenham and Masco.
Cleary said high school officials reached out to area high schools to see what strategies they have developed to help prepare students for the SAT.
“I think we are all doing similar things but probably the most consistent feedback we have got from everybody is what is happening on the outside,” said Cleary. “All of those communities who are doing well try to emphasize it’s not what they are doing in school but it’s the SAT prep classes held after school.”
Cleary noted the SAT prep class offered by Community Schools had 70 students enrolled this past year, which surpassed the 30-40 students who signed up the last couple of years.
“When you look at the increase in all those scores, it’s the culmination of all those things,” said Cleary. “We hope it’s going to continue to increase as we get the community involved. The Community Schools program is a great program that is really affordable. It’s run by teachers in the building, so it’s a familiar face for a lot of our students.”
Guidance Department Head Michael Moresco noted the new SAT exam will be released in March. He said the essay will become “optional” for students next spring.
School Committee Vice Chairman Tim Doyle was concerned 94 percent of the Class of 2015 took the SAT exam.
“We have been proud of getting 100 percent participation regardless of what the student ends up doing (after high school),” said Doyle.
Cleary said the high school’s SAT participation rate has traditionally been “in the mid 90s.” He said the students who don’t take the SAT usually don’t because they plan on taking a different path after high school such as enrolling in a community college, enlisting in the military or beginning to work full time.
“We try to encourage all of our students to take it,” added Cleary.